Capcom does not care how it gets your money, it just wants it, all of your money, as soon as possible. It doesn’t even particularly care if you bought your game on a disc: That DVD or Blu-ray doesn’t mean you’re entitled to access all of the data that’s contained therein, just some of it that the publisher has deemed worth $60. For example, in Street Fighter X Tekken, playable characters Cody and Guy must be purchased separately as DLC even though YouTube user FightingGameAddict found that these characters don’t need to be downloaded at all, just unlocked from the game disc through a secondary purchase.
Some users have been rankled by this policy enough to complain to the Better Business Bureau. Capcom has responded by saying it officially recognizes no distinction between downloadable content and on-disc content locked behind a pay wall.
As reported by Cinemablend, Capcom responded to Better Business Bureau complaint #57217509 with this statement:
“While Capcom is sorry that some of its fans are not happy about the chosen method of delivery for the DLC, we believe that this method will provide more flexible and efficient gameplay throughout the game’s lifecycle. There is effectively no distinction between the DLC being ‘locked’ behind the disc and available for unlocking at a later date, or being available through a full download at a later date, other than delivery mechanism.”
Capcom’s statement is troubling, at least for anyone that believes that the purchase of a game disc grants them ownership of the content within. The landscape of media ownership in 2012 is murky. U.S. copyright law’s First Sale Doctrine says that the player owns the content on the disc insofar as they’re allowed to sell it, lend it out, give it away, or copy it to back it up. Game publishers meanwhile typically circumvent First Sale Doctrine through end user license agreements.
What Capcom and other publishers like EA are doing by placing on-disc content behind a pay wall isn’t illegal per se. The law simply hasn’t caught up with technology to a point where it’s crystal clear what a user is entitled to after the point of sale.
Legal or not, the practice is reprehensible and one more sign that the era of the physical game is almost over. If a digital game is sold under a micro-transaction model, the player at least knows up front that they’ll be paying for the game piece by piece. Selling a disc under the auspices of it being a complete package yet restricting content on that disc is just dishonest.