Why Dead or Alive 6 feels like a DLC cash grab

We’ve all been trained by game publishers to expect season passes and DLC. In the current climate, no one bats an eye at a big game released with a bunch of DLC planned for release around or shortly after the launch of the game. It was controversial once, but now it’s expected and accepted as a part of the gaming culture. The original concern was that DLC was essentially content just being torn from the game and sold separately. Whether this is true or not is up for debate, but in the case of Dead or Alive 6, the concern seems justified.

Dead or Alive 6 is a fun 3D fighting game. The combat is swift, there are dozens of options available, and things have been streamlined somewhat for newer players. A comprehensive tutorial mode has also been included, along with a story mode that, while not necessarily that entertaining, can still keep players amused for a few hours before playing online or with friends. It has all of the essentials a good fighting game needs, and yet is let down by the need for “content.”

Broadly, Dead or Alive 6 is very similar to Dead or Alive 5. This doesn’t feel like a massive generational leap and is more like an arbitrary update to an existing game. The characters have more pronounced sweat and there are flashy stage hazards that are new to the Dead or Alive series, but other than those minor details, the changes in the game are hard to discern. The characters all look similar to how they have in previous appearances, and bafflingly, there are still fewer of them available than in Dead or Alive 5.

Roll call

A roster of 24 characters with the base game sounds pretty attractive, and there are even two brand new characters, Mexican-American Diego and NiCO, a scientist slash martial artist. That’s not bad, but your heart will sink a bit when you see Nyotengu and Phase 4 included on the character select screen, but not playable. Of course, those cost extra, despite being playable in Dead or Alive 5, and Nyotengu is even playable in the story mode.

But Koei Tecmo isn’t satisfied just letting you buy these characters. While Nyotengu is available on the store separately, Phase 4 isn’t. Phase 4 is exclusive to the Digital Deluxe Edition of the game. That’s right. If you bought the base game already and want Phase 4 added to your roster, it’s going to require that you buy another even more expensive version of the game to do so. It’s extra insulting when Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, which is much cheaper, includes 36 characters — although albeit some of those are additional DLC, too.

Splitting characters up like this is a very unpopular move in the fighting game community. Small tournaments in particular often rely on people bringing their own consoles for people to play to host events, and when it comes to DLC characters, they all need to be unlocked, otherwise it’s not viable for all players. But the issues it causes the competitive scene seem minor considering that all players, casual and serious, are being goaded into coughing up extra cash for the game, lest it feels incomplete.

Dead on arrival

Dead or Alive

But characters are not the main source of frustration here. It’s trivial compared to Dead or Alive 6‘s first season pass. The pass contains 62 costumes and two playable characters which will all be released between March 2019 and June 2019. That’s a pretty short season, but this is just the start.

The pack, of course, contains dozens of costumes, in addition to the guest character Mai Shiranui — who was already available as DLC in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, of course. The other DLC character is yet to be announced, but at a cost of $92.99 (!) for this pack, it doesn’t seem to be very good value. That’s more than the Digital Deluxe Edition.

Of course, this all has precedent. If we take a look at Dead or Alive 5: Last Round‘s PSN page, we see a similar scene. Even though it looks like there is one missing on the PlayStation Store, there are still multiple six season passes and five of them are $92.99 and the last one is a “mere” $74.49. Of course, you don’t need any of these to complete your character roster, but if you want your copy of Dead or Alive 5 to feel like a truly complete game, that is the expense you’re facing.

It’s frustrating to see Dead or Alive 6 go down the same route before it has even managed to pick up an audience. Now anyone willing to go check it out on an online game store will see DLC attached which costs more than the game itself, and if that doesn’t put them off the purchase, the smaller roster will. Unfortunately, the path that Koei Tecmo is dragging Dead or Alive 6 down is clear. It might not sell the most copies, but they’ll certainly make their money back by wringing it from their biggest fans.