Weekly Discussion: Unlockables

Now to me personally the term unlockable means two very different things. First off you’ve got the kind for the obsessive player, where you complete some challenge or series of challenges to get a cool piece of armour or just some decorative item. This is pretty much how MMOs keep players coming back again and again, but it’s clearly present in almost every game. It’s a pretty basic progression mechanic to make you feel like your actually getting something for moving forwards in the game.

The other kind that we’ve only really seen in this generation of console gaming is paid unlockables. In general I’d say these are microtransactions, where you pay for a new car, gun or costume. These are quite clearly a very different beast to unlocks earned from simply playing the game, and one that are open to a lot more debate over whether or not they’re a good thing.

However there is, of course, a discussion to be had about whether unlocks through play are a good thing before we even get to paid unlocks. For me it depends how vital the unlock is. For example I loved going through all the Lairs of Romulus in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood to get the Brutus Armour, but you could easily finish the games main storyline without unlocking the armour.


In contrast to this you can look at unlockables like cars or courses where not being able to unlock them can be detrimental to your enjoyment of the game. In particular I would be extremely annoyed if I wanted to play St. Andrews golf course, but I wasn’t able to get far enough into the game to unlock the course then I’d probably feel pretty dissatisfied with the game. Being punished for my poor virtual golfing just isn’t fun.

Developers and publishers are now trying to resolve this by adding the paid unlock model to play unlocks. Of course I don’t feel that paying is the ideal solution, particularly given the days of cheat codes are hardly in the distant past.

However, whilst I’m not necessarily in favour of paying to unlock things that are already in the game, I’m perfectly for paying for unlocks of items on the disc but not in the game. Why? Well if something is worth paying for as DLC then I think it’s worth paying for as a simple unlock code. This is purely because when developers put it on the disc it’s budgeted for by assuming people will pay for it, in exactly the same way that the business case for downloadable content is made. If it costs the developer the same the make why should it matter the form of delivery?

With my thoughts on the matter out of the way, lets hear your opinion. Do you like games that give you unlocks? Is it ok to pay for content already in the game? What about unlocking new content on the disc?



  1. I love unlocks in games which you play for; RDR was great with having to do lots of different things to get various suit pieces.

    I don’t mind paying for new stuff but only if it’s downloaded, it does not sit right with me to pay more to unlock parts of the disc I have already bought.

    • I disagree, for most games, the DLC is developed before the game is released anyway, so you are essentially paying to download something that could have been on the disc in the first place, I will pay for DLC if i think it is wirth it, and I would rather have that extra content on the disc already if it is developed at time of game launch, as it means it wont be eating up space on my HDD!

  2. I don’t understand some of the hate for paid for unlocks – not everyone has the time to plough dozens of hours into a game and if they’re well done, like the car unlocks in NFS Carbon, I’m all for it – I bought the R34 after a few hours to help me out offline.

    Unlocks as games progress? Not a fan of the online FPS stuff, which means the longer you play the more shit to get to make noobs like me look even worse, but I can see the point.

    • I agree for offline, it’s good to let people make up for their lack of skill or spare time by dropping a couple of quid instead but it should NOT be available online. Otherwise you go online in release week and all the rich kids are just pwning you with their stupidly fast cars or insta-kill weapons.

      Online unlocks in games the COD are ok as long as the match making is decent so you are playing people who’ve got a similar loadout available.

      • Online unlocks are why I never played Split Second. If you can unlock the best car from day one I’m not playing.

    • I think if things are balanced well, then the online unlocks shouldn’t matter overall. I remember in MAG that I was using guns which you could unlock fairly early for much of my play time. There it was how you played that was more important.

      It’s far too easy for there to be an over powered combination in a game, though, and developers need to combat that as much as possible.

  3. I’m with Dara O’Briain: “I already unlocked this, in a shop, with a credit card”

  4. I like unlockables as the form of progression, but very much dislike buying them as DLC, whether it be a new set of guns or costumes or whatever, I just don’t see the point usually. Though I will admit that I’ve succumbed once or twice to some LBP costumes. Iron Sack was just too adorable /not/ to buy!

    • I had Iron Sack but the penicillin cleared it right up.

  5. Well I’m a bit of a fence sitter, an example that comes to mind is the Dead Space games, I loved the first title but had no interest in buying the DLC armour or weapons because I wanted to beat the game on my own back without resorting to what is little more than a paid-for cheat code. However, having platinumed it, I purchased one of the packs to give a little back to the devs for what I saw as an outstanding title, and one which I initially bought 2nd hand.

    The second Dead Space raises a slightly different question, it still has the paid for weapons and armour which I will probably swerve this time having picked the game up on day one full price. It also has an unlockable gun available if you beat the game using no checkpoints and only 3 save games. I’m really not sure of the point, if I’d spent hours/days/months trying to achieve this I think I’d have no interest whatsoever in playing it again, ever.

  6. I like in game unlocks for single player, ones that improve the gameplay and ones that are for fun too. Demons Souls is fantastic for making you work hard (or smart) for a game changing weapon.

    Un paid online unlocks are good for the game too. COD is a good example for getting you to play more, that ping to say you’ve levelled up and unlocked another weapon or attachment is addictive, especially now they’ve made it more involving with pro-perks. But I would not play it if somebody could buy all the upgrades from day one.

    Paid for offline unlocks are ok, it’s your choice if you pay for them or not. I will definetly stump up cash for any GT5 add ons. But would be royally pissed to be paying for stuff that is already on the disk.

    Paid for online unlocks are a no go, as many have said it can completely ruin the online community and experience for those who choose to not buy them and they shouldn’t be alowed.

    • You’ve saved me some typing, this is my view exactly on the subject..

  7. I do miss cheat codes though, really hope they bring back outlandish cheat activations in the next GTA (assuming they are developing one, which of course they are!)

  8. I agree that in many ways paid-for unlocking of content already on disc is fine. Its optional after all, you don’t *have* to buy it. In many ways, on-disc ‘DLC’ is better as its quicker to get and potentially saves you some bandwidth. I’m being picky here, but I really don’t understand why people have such a hang-up of this kind of stuff – if you don’t want to pay for something, then simply don’t.

  9. I am a very average gamer so having the option to buy me some decent Weapon/Armour/Cars etc to let me have more fun in the game and not for it to be a ball ache is ideal.

  10. I personally wouldn’t play to unlock content, because imo, the challenge is the point of a game, if you can just buy your way through it them what was the point? Maybe I’ve just got an old school attitude, but if you don’t have the skill, then practise until you do, you’re missing out on a great sense of achievement otherwise.

    • I just want to add that it seems that there is a real urge to race through games these days, which I think is helped by publishers releasing these “time savers” packs.. I can’t help thinking this is a deliberate move by publishers who want us to finish the game quickly and buy the next one.

      • Spot on! The only difference I think is with the online stuff where they want you to keep playing until they’re ready with the new release. And as we are starting to get more publishers that use 2 or more devs and release games in quicker intervals.

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