Today, the Resident Evil 5 Versus mode was released on Xbox LIVE and PSN for $5 (400 MS Points), but the download is only 2 megabytes on the Xbox 360 and even less on the PS3. This leads me to conclude that the Versus mode content is already on the DVD and is merely being unlocked by your money.
Now, I could be wrong... if the mode uses art assets entirely from the game (including maps that are subsections of singleplayer areas) they could conceivably pack that into 2MB. It's more likely, however, that Versus mode was finished for release and is just now being activated by extra money.
So why are we paying for Versus?
After the initial backlash to the announcement of this paid DLC, Capcom responded. Christian Svensson, vice president of Strategic Planning & Business Development for Capcom, said:
"The content that is shipping in the full game exists within its own budget. The content shipping afterward (regardless of how close to release it is... because the goal IS to have it release relatively closely to the base product's release) exists within its own budget. To try and have it release in a timeframe that is relatively close to the initial release, development starts well before the base product is on the shelves. There's no other way to keep it within 3 to 6 weeks of the initial release (which is the goal)."
I'm sure the budget for Versus was its own number, but if the content was finished in time to be included on the DVD I would consider that part of the "full game." Capcom is also doing something like this with the Street Fighter IV costume packs. When you purchase one of those packs, the applicable costumes are merely unlocked. They are already on the DVD.
This is where DLC gets dubious. When companies start holding content back that was finished in time to be included at retail, it starts to send a message to consumers. Some companies, like Epic, do this as a way to reward people that actually purchase the game. The "Flashback Map Pack" was a free download for people that purchased Gears of War 2. I don't have a problem with that.
Another example is content that doesn't actually add anything. You can unlock everything in skate 2 by purchasing a piece of DLC. It doesn't actually give you anything new, but offers players a chance to experience everything in the game without spending any time unlocking things. Is this good DLC? This is the type of stuff that used to be accomplished with a simple cheat code. Are cheats moving toward becoming DLC?
It seems like the push to have any DLC at all is reducing the quality of the content. Don't get me wrong... I love good DLC. It's a great way to extend the experience with games that I particularly enjoy. Even with all the backlash and complaints about DLC like the Versus pack, it's completely optional. I enjoyed Resident Evil 5 and I don't really feel like my experience with the game was affected by not having Versus in the box, but it's a bit of a slap in the face to the gamer.
I've reached out to Capcom for comment, but a representative could not be reached by press time. We'll bring you an update as soon as we hear back.