Sony's PlayStation 4 DLC formula is free, creative, and effective

Opinion

Two of the most interesting “games” on the PlayStation 4 are a photography simulator and a voxel editor that allows you to create your own ships. These two tools, both of which were released for free after the launch of their respective games, are proving almost as fun as the games in which they appear.

More importantly, they both give the players an excuse to do something creative. These two pieces of content allow the player to add to or re-interpret the game's world in some way

This is the sort of thing Sony has excelled with lately. Give the player new reasons to play games without paying for DLC, allow them to experiment in the game's reality, and watch the positive social media responses pour in.

Resogun

A free update to Resogun, released a day before the $5 "Heroes" expansion, allows players to create their own ships in a 3D voxel editor. You don’t just get to design how the ship looks, you also get to place points in the game's basic character sheet to determine how the ship will act in the game.

The ships you create can also be shared online, and the selection of user-created ships is already filled with X-Wings, Flappy Birds, and Marios. Players have made space-ship giraffes, as well as other, goofier designs. You can upload your creations for others to use, and download and use the ships of others. You can keep up to five ships in your stable at any given time.

The ability to create, share and download ships that behave in different ways isn’t a small thing, and it will go a long way to re-opening the battle for the highest scores; Housemarque acknowledged this in a PlayStation Blog post that explained the decision to "retire" the current score boards while closing a few loopholes that allowed people to get huge scores.

These free updates gives players a way to be creative while operating as walking commercials for the games

You can make a ship in a minute or two and be playing it in the game just as quickly, and if you’re happy with its design you can upload it to share with others. You can browse the selection of user-created ships and experiment with them to try to beat your highest scores. The update also added new trophies and local co-op, giving players even more reason to return to the game.

The ship creation feature was so popular that it crashed the game’s servers earlier today. Sony’s Adam Boyes re-tweeted an image of someone’s Mario-shaped ship in the game, continuing the company's playful, permissive tone on social media.

It would have been easy to roll the ship editor into the for-pay DLC, but giving it away to every player invites a huge audience into this particular sandbox and re-energizes those of us who already had the game and haven’t played for a while. It may or may not boost the sales of the upcoming $5 DLC, but it certainly put the game back in the spotlight.

Infamous: Second Son

This isn’t the first time a Sony-published game was given an extra shot of life via free DLC that allowed the player to interact with the game in interesting ways. Infamous: Second Son was given a "photo mode" that allowed the player to pause the action at any point, move the camera around the action and take pictures of what was going on while manipulating the "camera’s" depth of field, f-stop, add visual features and adjust other aspects of the scene.

The camera is still locked to Delsin, but you have a wide field in which to play, and there are long, impressive threads on many forums that show the photography of players.

This mode turned into yet another way to show off just how good the game looks as players rushed to take the best, most artfully composed shot to share with friends and other players online. Every time someone uploaded an image or shared it on Twitter it worked as a commercial for Sony’s game.

The players spent hours trying to show off the game’s visuals to their utmost, and may of the images went viral and can now be found as the wallpaper on the computers and phones of players, or even the developers themselves.

Sucker Punch has turned an action game into a sort of playground for budding photographers, and the PlayStation 4’s many ways to share content allows players to turn their best shots into widely-shared advertisements for the game and console.

Having an army of gamers who are trying to make your game look as good as possible while sharing their screenshots is a powerful marketing tool, and when taking those shots is this much fun many of us don’t mind being "used" in this way.

Hell, if you were ever simply curious about what certain photography terms meant this gives you a way to experiment without getting out your DSLR.

What did we learn from these experiments?

At least on the superficial level both of these updates provided the games a huge boost in visibility. Creating this content isn’t free however, and everyone involved is leaving money on the table by not charging for the updates.

But who cares? These free updates gives players a way to be creative while operating as walking commercials for the games, and everyone wins, and they provide another way for Sony to differentiate its games and approach from its competitors. Can anyone image Microsoft tweeting an image of a competitor's character in one of its games?

Anyone can rip off this formula, and it's worth doing: Offer some free content, give players a way to be creative from within the game and enable them to share the fruits of their labor.

Nintendo is already seeing the value of the video editing tools it baked into Mario Kart 8, and this is a trend that's bound to continue. For now however, Sony is doing it best, and the company is reaping the rewards.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Polygon as an organization.

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