Activision is rolling out DJ Hero downloadable content right out of the gate. This is standard, if not expected and explicitly desired, for music games. Activision and developer FreeStyleGames is charging $3-per-mix for the DJ Hero downloadable content, citing "additional creative work" required to get music licensed, mixed, tracked and distributed. Guitar Hero 5's individuals songs cost $2 per song. You're getting more music for your buck with DJ Hero, so there's an argument to be made.
What caught my eye about Activision's handling of DJ Hero's downloadable comment, however, was a line from the developer's commercial director Chris Lee, in response to a question from IGN about the availability of buying DJ Hero content individually, rather than bundles. As it stands, the math tells us additional DJ Hero content costs $3-per-mix, but you can only purchase individual mixes on the Wii. On Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, however, Activision has only made bundles available.
Here's the problem.
By design, bundles are typically cheaper than buying every track individually. DJ Hero's current track bundle -- the "DJ Hero Extended Mix Pack" for $6 -- isn't cheaper and consumers aren't allowed to pick and choose which tracks they download on two out of three platforms. You only have the opportunity to purchase the entire track bundle, unless you're playing DJ Hero on the Wii.
Purchasing individual mixes only exists on the Wii. On the Wii, the DJ Hero downloadable content is $3-per-mix. The reason? A technicality; the Wii can't do bundled content. Consequently, Activision was forced to offer individual tracks. Based on the Wii model, there is no price reduction for purchasing a bundle, nor does there appear to be a technical hurdle stopping them from offering the option. Here's what Chris Lee told IGN about downloadable bundles vs. individual mixes:
"While on Xbox Live and in the PlayStation Store the mixes will be available in Mix Packs," he said, "technical restrictions on the Wii restrict our options so that we can't offer the mixes bundled together."
By that logic, if it had been possible to bundle the mixes together, they would have. Given the approach on the other platforms, that also would have meant purposely removing consumer choice and implementing a bundle-only purchasing system that provides no clear savings.
Cost saving bundles have has been historically true for both Guitar Hero and Rock Band . Take the recent "Classic Rock 2 Track Pack" for Guitar Hero 5. Individually, each songs costs $2. If you were to buy all three songs separately, it'd set you back $6. Purchase the bundle, however, and it's $5.50. Sure, you can argue 50 cents isn't much, but it's cheaper -- again, philosophy of the bundle. Because the bundle is cheaper, you might pick up a song you're on the fence about. You get a song for a reduced price and Activision ensures you pay more -- curiosity baited by financial security.
I've asked Activision to clarify whether future DJ Hero downloadable content will offer the consumer the opportunity to choose which mixes to download. The company has not responded to my requests and there's no evidence Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners are getting that option. There is some good news, however. The next downloadable pack, the "David Guetta Mix Pack," features three mixes and has been priced at $8. At the $3-per-mix rate, it should be $9. It's not. In this case, Activision is following the bundle model and providing a $1 savings to the consumer. That's a start.
Additionally, the bundles on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network both come with this warning: "Some mixes may be available both as singles and as part of a Track Pack, so please carefully consider your purchases before downloading." Maybe Activision's policy will change in the future.
As it stands, however, that option doesn't exist. You're still asked to spend $8 when you might only be interested in purchasing one mix, which would only cost $3.