Ever since the beginnings of the MMO industry, we are used to downloading updates and buying expansions. Now that the industry has lived over a decade, it has seen many changes and evolutions. These days, it appears expansions and updates are starting to come together more and more, even if it doesn't seem obvious to some. In today's world, what is the difference between a game update and an expansion?
Now this question might appear easy at first when we look at more traditionally designed games i.e. Everquest, World of Warcraft, Ultima Online. However, today, with EVE Online utilizing 'free expansions' twice a year and the recent expansion to Champions Online, Revelation (which was originally going to cost), it starts feeling like these two terms are coming together more and more. Let's take a look at the similarity between the two here:
They both provide additional game content, fixes and updates to the current systems and exemplify a form of shift within the game. These things practically are sufficient enough to define either, albeit a bit loosely. The only real differences between the terms is a matter of scale. Expansions typically represent a more drastic change to the game and they usually are charged to the players where updates are always free.
Now that expansions are also being released as free, are the any real differences? Could this be another way to market their game by offering "free expansions"? Sure, EVE Online has two free expansions per year, but technically, the only game updates they ever release are the ones to their expansions. It looks like their expansions are more like major game updates, which I believe every subscriber is somewhat entitled to already. Champions Online upcoming expansion, Revelation, was originally going to cost their loyal fan base, but now its free. I wonder what made them change their mind.
When you think of it, what do players subscribe for in the first place? Shouldn't all expansions be free since the players provide the cash for the longevity of the game? Why are players being charged for expansions? Couldn't companies exploit this by saving all their best ideas to compile into 1 big expansion to charge their loyal fan base? Couldn't this be viewed as a form of double dipping? People want to scream "RMT is evil!", but have never appeared to question why we are charged the extra $30-40 USD for additional content that supposedly their subscriptions were supposed to cover.
Any thoughts or ideas on this topic? Could this be an extreme view in regards to how expansions are being used either as a form of marketing (i.e. offering them for "free") or double-dipping (charging for them)? Should we just call them game updates from now on or are they as different as they seem?