The future of BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is threatened by Arc System Works’ DLC approach

By on January 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm

The recent Fighting Game Awards from Arc System Works culminated in a monumental BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle announcement. Up to this point, we’ve been trickle-fed monthly character reveals, often spread across the colliding universes (though usually leaning heavily on BlazBlue’s). At the end of the BlazBlue: Central Fiction tournament, the company gave us a release date for BBTAG (May 31st for Japan, June 5th for the US), revealed the expected Blake Belladona from RWBY, and showed off a fancy “Limited Box” that will contain multiple goodies.

That’s not what caught the attention of most fans. It turns out that Blake won’t be part of the base game; rather, she is part of the paid DLC content. What’s more, we now know that the base cast is 20 characters. However, an additional 20 characters will be available for purchase as add-on content. So yes, 50 percent of the game’s cast needs to be purchased. This is surprising, and problematic.

In a way, it’s not that strange that BBTAG has a large number of DLC characters. After all, the combined character pool from BlazBlue, Persona, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY is quite huge, easily reaching 80 combatants. It’s all the more reason to be surprised at a skimpy launch cast of only 20 fighters. Though Arc System Works generally pushes quality over quantity (The first BlazBlue installment, Calamity Trigger, started with just 12, after all), most players are already familiar with the cast.

This could possibly have something to do with the release date. Personally, I predicted the game would ship sometime in the fall; the end of May is much sooner than expected. Coming out before Evolution 2018 is surely the goal there — though, as an aside, it’s hard to see BBTAG taking up a main stage slot among a crowded roster of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and BBCF itself. Naysaying aside, the release date might be a premonition of a rushed title, which explains the somewhat slim cast and a large number of DLC characters.

In announcing 20 launch DLC fighters, Arc System Works is breaking a new record, and already the reception is largely negative. No other fighting game in history has had so many characters blocked off by a paywall. We know the price point of the game in yen: 5,800 in retail, a little less via download, which is roughly $52 at the current exchange rate. Given that ASW sticks to their expected $7.99 per character (and hopefully, they “generously” offer the same price for each three-character pack), buying all the DLC should cost you $64. The “All-in-one” pack could be cheaper, however, and we don’t know how much the Limited Box will cost yet. This suggests the DLC could cost more than the base game itself.

Aside the outrageous cost there, what’s even worse is how ASW is deciding who is a “base” character and who is a “premium,” (paid) character. Take the RWBY characters, for instance. Two of the core ladies, Ruby Rose and Weiss Schnee, are included. Blake however is a separate charge, and there’s a good chance the same will be true of Yang (ASW denoted one character DLC that isn’t a bundle of three). This is such an obviously ruthless business move that it hurts to see it. Personally, I think of DLC characters as extra content, maybe some kind of special character, but separating the four main girls of the show with a paywall is just greedy. I’d like to see older, more powerful people from the show as DLC, like Qrow, Raven, Ozpin, but not the heroines. Imagine if Jin Kisaragi, Noel Vermillion, or Rachel Alucard were not included in the base title.

There’s another thorn in this “core” character DLC kerfuffle. BBTAG is a rehash of sorts of characters we’ve already seen and have played for years. Don’t get me wrong, I love Litchi Faye Ling, I main Amane Nishiki, and enjoy wrecking people with Ken and Koromaru in Persona Arena. But should they show up as paid DLC, having played those characters for years and having had them available as base characters before is aggravating.

But what’s really problematic about this is the initial offering. The starting casts for all the non-BB titles are very skimpy, at just four characters per universe, with RWBY getting only two:

Persona 4 Arena
  • Yu Narukami
  • Yosuke Hanamura
  • Chie Satonaka
  • Yukiko Amagi
Under Night In-Birth
  • Hyde
  • Linne
  • Waldstein
  • Gordeau
  • Ruby Rose
  • Weiss Schnee

There’s not much one can say about this: it’s disappointing. While surely there will be devoted fans who will get the product or the Limited Box, having such a large number of tournament-legal characters is a problem for competitive players. Not only will organizers have to worry about providing complete setups, but also, as someone who personally doesn’t buy every possible DLC character, it will be easy to run into issues when playing casual games with friends who use certain paid content. There’s a difference between having single-player additional content and fighting game extras. So many DLC walls put up a hindrance to competition and learning match-ups.

Some marketing or executive gurus decided to split team RWBY with a DLC paywall.

DLC in of itself is expected and common practice. It wouldn’t be as problematic if the roster’s balance skewed a bit more to a bigger base, but seeing so many additional, paid characters is outrageous. Had they reserved a couple of special, extra characters as launch DLC — sure, we could stomach that. With such a large cast, it’s a given that ArcSys would reserve some as DLC. However, they definitely crossed the line here.

Hopefully, the company sees the overall disappointment from fans and does something to rectify the situation. As it stands, the future of BBTAG may very well be ruined at the start. In the past, ASW has released “Extend” editions (which is a problem I’ve also written about) that ship with all the DLC characters. I can see many people withholding from buying BBTAG at first, waiting on discounts, thus weakening the initial community for what otherwise could be a very fun game.

And for those saying “Capcom does this all the time, but when ArcSys does it, it’s OK” — nope. This is the time. This is ArcSys getting called out for their DLC practices.

The Wheel of Fate is in their court now.

Sources: Koefficient; Bazz

Luke "Woocash" Siuty is a Chicago-based writer who specializes in ArcSys titles. A Guilty Gear veteran, he plays Baiken and commits atrocities by playing Sin when he's not busy pondering the ArcSys Cycle. He's always down to talk on Twitter, so send him tips. He's good at OS-ing in real life, not so much in video games, though.