Milking The Cash-Cow Dry

Picture a cow. Pretty isn’t it? Imagine those big, almost buoyant udders that look like milk-filled marigolds. Picture those vacant, childish and friendly eyes staring at you with wonder and enchantment. Think about the patchwork ink-spots of black and the vast atlases of white spread out across its leathery body. Think about its lazy tail, swatting flies with the tattered paintbrush bristles that hang numbly and dumbly between its shit-splattered flanks. Nice isn’t it?

Now… imagine yourself walking up behind it – the pleasant countryside air humming with the smell of cowpat and pollen. There is a breeze blowing against your face; it is slight and loaded with the languid, British Summertime heat. You have a spring in your step and you approach the cow from behind. It moos – as cows are wont to do – as you near; the poor creature expects a handful of grain or a reassuring whisper in its bovine ear. You continue on, undeterred by the monotone bleating of the fatty beef-bag, and set up a miniature stool, close to the animal’s bloated udder. A careful hand extends, grasps one of the cow’s baby-pink teats, and pulls. A small squirt of milk falls and pings into a cheap iron bucket, balanced ungracefully and ungratefully on rigid blades of cow-cropped grass.

This delicate process continues for a while – a rhythm is born, and your cold, stiff hands continue to pull small deposits of milk from the cow’s sore teats… relentlessly. After a while, the bloated bovine begins to moo ­its disdain – “moo, moo, moo.” You ignore its animal cries; if it had an anthropomorphised voice, it would beg you “Please stop – I can’t take it anymore; I haven’t got anything else to give.” You ignore it. You keep on pumping the delicate pink cow-nipples until the milk is coming out in disgruntled drips, thick with pus and occasionally stained pink with the dumb beast’s blood.

Pound of flesh to go with that gallon of milk?

You look down, observing the concoction of misery and hate that swills in your bucket of profit. A single drop rains into the bucket, and you decide to keep going.  The cow morphs before you, becoming emaciated and skeletal, and still you continue to pump on its flagging udders. Before long, soggy bits of skin flop into the mix, bobbing up and down on the mercantile cocktail. The udders themselves disintegrate in your hands, taking on the properties of some 1930’s body horror movie. Red arterial blood mixes with the cream-thick milkshake in your lovely little bucket. Satisfied with both your cup of blood and your pound of flesh, you go home – back to your office (Capcom Headquarters) and prepare to divide your cash-cow into equal parts; to sell as MSP and PSN credit.

Yes – you read that right; that’s how Nintendo, Capcom, Sega and all the other money-grabbing sadists in the games industry get their kicks. They go out into their little barnyard stables, find their favourite cash-cow and milk the poor bastards dry. Whether the names emblazoned onto their rumps declare them Street Fighter, Marvel Vs Capcom, Sonic the Hedgehog, Pokemon or anything else (even Square Enix have their little shed, housing the scruffy-tufted Final Fantasy calves) – each of these companies abuses their little pets like Gary Glitter abused his hard-drive.

The way I see it, the companies operate a similar marketing strategy to drug barons: they’ll hook you – use a gateway drug (which can be anything from nostalgia to a free demo offered over LIVE or PSN [when it works]) and get you sweating for more. So, invariably, you’ll part with your hard-earned £40 (if you’re a moron and buy it at release), and your fix will be satiated for – you think – the next few years, until the prequel/sequel/sell-out spin-off (looking at you, Fallout) comes along. For the time being, the developers and the producers have spent your £40 (probably on weapons with which to beat small children) and are hungry for more. So they have a little meeting in some day-bleached glass-bowl of a Consultation Office and remember “Oh yeah! We had all that extra stuff on the disk!” They high-five each other and, the next day, put out a code to unlock the bogus ‘Bonus’ content. In the process, they bypass that patch they needed to produce to fix an incredibly broken game – opting instead to offer some sub-standard, broken add-on (Bethesda, hang your filthy heads). The drug analogy extends here – you think you’re fine; you’re not jonesing, you’re not hankering for a fix and you’re not going cold turkey. You’ve got that copy of Street Fighter/that bag of coke on your shelf, and that’s enough to comfort you. But then – all of a sudden – the dealer/Capcom comes dancing into your squalor of a room (neglected so much that it’s dirtier than a cat-lady’s council-house kitchen) and says “Ooh, look at this! I’ve got this exciting new stuff in, and you sort of need it now, y’know, if you’ve already bought that other – more expensive stuff – or you’re losing out…”

"You look like the sort of plonker who'll pay through the nose for some DLC. Or 'Del-C' as I call it, mon dieu, mon dieu."

Charmed by their salesman’s fox-like cunning, you part with yet more cash. The biggest insult right here is – you’re happy to do it! After previous experiences at the hands of lacklustre follow-ups, after reading all the reviews that claim the product in question is – basically – shite, and after weighing up the cost-to-value balance, you still want to trade a small fortune for something you know will dissatisfy you more than a night in with Anne Widdecombe. The dealer leaves, and you sit there with your product. After a mere couple of minutes hands-on with it, you settle into that familiar nadir of guilt and shame – knowing you’ve wasted money and that you did it willingly. You begin to cry, and your emaciated face looks like a bucket of smashed crabs.

There is an antithesis to this, however – there is content out there that is genuinely worth the time and effort developers put into things. Mostly, these trinkets are purely hype-based, but if it enriches the experience of the game itself, I don’t see a huge downside. I have recently finished reading the Arkham City comic, for example, and this has got me all riled up for the newest gaming instalment featuring our bat-eared friend. Another example of actual decent marketing was from Blue Castle Games and Capcom (for all their sins); their approach to Dead Rising 2 was nothing short of genius; creating a prelude and epilogue (entirely optional) and pricing them at 200MSP each created a series that was both accessible and entertaining. Capcom, of course, shot themselves in the foot shortly afterwards, selling in-game skills for real-life money.

The Arkham City comics work well because not only do they promote the game and generate hype for the launch, but they also give you an insight into the universe – an extra glimpse of what it is the Dark Knight will face and what troubles may be afoot. Mass Effect’s comic companion did the same – giving insight into the elusive ‘Illusive Man’ – but they underscored that with the appallingly bad Arrival DLC.

Devs and publishers alike need to realize that yes, people are stupid, but they also form a tight network of loyal fans. For the companies to stab them in the back so often and so brutally is just an insult, really.  We, as consumers, pay for the right to play games; if we are going to spend money, then surely that money should enrich either the gameplay, the narrative or the general functionality of the game, not give us some slipshod tack-on sub-mission that doesn’t even glue with the rest of the game.

This is a plea… please, people of the Gaming  World, stop torturing your poor cash cows; be more humane: let them calf, and let those little bundles of gold grow into new IPs, new takes on old series (take a leaf out of the Prince of Persia Trilogy’s book) or, God willing, even extensions of already popular universes into new, untapped gaming territory.  Please, do it for the cows. Their milk will sustain you – you don’t need their blood.

Last five articles by Dom



  1. Chris Toffer says:

    Don’t even get me started on DLC and the cash cow that it is. Top article mate. Something that will probably hit home for a lot of gamers!

  2. Richie richie says:

    Brilliant stuff, Dom.

    Totally awesome and true. Like going up to a midget and shouting ‘FREAK’ in it’s tiny fucking face.

  3. Callum says:

    Brilliant read, but lets be honest, it’s not just the gaming industry that does this, it’s every industry out there. Both film and publishing industries have done it, one of course leading into the other. Look at the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, or even the Harry Potter series, not getting even more story crammed into it. Even TV, Star Trek had how many series???

  4. Tania Tania says:

    Aww, those poor little beef-bags! ;)

    I have to admit though, I love DLC!

    Great stuff Dom.

  5. Edward Edward says:

    Brilliant, if slightly disturbing.
    This article made me really hungry for cows.

  6. Dom Dom says:

    Thanks, guys, I really appreciate it =D
    On a note about this; since I’ve written it, Capcom have announced Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 – which is the same game with a few extras (which could very easily be DLC) pegged on. I’m so, so angry. I bought the original (being a HUGE Marvel geek and loving Capcom) and now I’m told the version WHICH CONSUMERS PREFER that FIXES ERRORS IN THE ORIGINAL will cost me MORE MONEY. What!?

    Fuck you, Capcom, I’m not paying out any more for your stupid money-grabbing spin-offs.

  7. Lorna Lorna says:

    Very vivid description and I perhaps should not have read it when already feeling queasy ;) Still, great stuff and very well observed. Sadly it is all too common these days, though Pokemon is one of the all time worst offenders now. Re-releasing Silver and Gold? Come on, Ninty. It is odd though, and a touch hypocritical of me, that I actually would like them to milk some franchises a little more, rather than just ignoring great games, such as Pikmin. Still, I’ll no doubt regret that a few years down the line when Pikmin 1 is re-released for the fifth time as part of an anniversary set with Pikmin 2 – 23…

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