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Battlefield 3 Premium Part 2: A Re-evaluation

Good news everyone! The article you’re about to read is of the very same subject as the first article I wrote for Leviathyn: Battlefield 3 Premium. Back when Premium was still a relatively new service (I think it had been out for a week) I concluded that as a new service with potential to grow past some of my complaints, Premium was indeed worth the cost (especially because you’re essentially pre-buying all of the expansions at a discount).

Fast forward to today and I’m not so sure that Premium is a service I’d still recommend. Sure, I’m pleased with the discount on expansions (early access is also swell), but Premium, by offering additional content, is trying to round itself into a service that enhances the Battlefield 3 experience beyond planned DLC. That is why Premium users get exclusive in-game content such as spiffy looking dog tags and sweet camouflages for both character and gun. Yet Premium has failed to become a well-rounded service, which is disappointing considering it had potential to be so much more than a season pass for DLC.

My disappointment stems from the August bonus content drop for Premium users: an exclusive art booklet. This wonderful gift includes “an exclusive high-res artwork booklet (electronic) with 24 original concept artworks from the development of Battlefield 3” the majority of which “have never before been shown to the public.” Goody. (Just as an aside, it is kind of funny to scroll through some of the comments about the announcement.)

Backtracking a couple weeks prior to this content drop, I for some reason was oddly excited. There was a tonne of speculation about what it might be, and I was checking almost daily to see if any official details had been released (I really had nothing better to do). I had my own ideas of what it might be, based on the first content drop: access to the Back to Karkand expansion. I didn’t personally benefit from this content drop as I had gotten the limited edition of BF3 which came with a redeemable voucher for the DLC. I wasn’t really bothered, though, because I thought it fair to use that content drop as a barometer for future content drops.

I couldn’t have been more wrong, yet in some sense right at the same time.

What do I mean by that? While I didn’t think we would get something quite the scale of an expansion like Karkand, I thought we’d get more than we did—new character skins, extra camo, etc. That simply wasn’t the case. Yet at the same time, I should have clued in that bonus content wouldn’t be significant, because many Premium players (hell, change that to most Battlefield 3 players in general) would’ve already had Karkand prior to that content drop. The DLC came with any limited edition copy of the game, and I even know people who picked up the game after that initial expansion came out and still got a voucher for a free copy of it. Plus Karkand had been out for a while before Premium, so anyone who wanted it but didn’t have a voucher would have simply paid their fifteen bucks. Essentially EA and Dice were giving away what most of us already owned.

In retrospect this first bonus content drop was just plain lazy, but it was overlooked because of the newness, that shiny lustre, of the service. Couple that with the latest bonus content drop, and it is as if EA and Dice couldn’t be bothered to put any effort into their bonus content. Sure, the art book is something Premium members didn’t have before and do now (even though I’ll never look at it), but still I feel cheated. Because, really, does this “Enhance your Battlefield 3 experience” like bonus content is said to? I thought that was the whole idea behind Premium to begin with.

If this is what we’re going to get, then why even bother with the idea of bonus content? I can understand not wanting to give Premium players a bonus gun or anything which may skew things in the favor of Premium players (new weapons are also a big part of each expansion), but is this really the best that Dice can do? This isn’t a case of gamer entitlement rearing its ugly head; it’s a legitimate complaint.

Part of the issue is rooted in Dice’s language game. First, we have unique in-game content like dog tags, additional camouflages (for gun and character), and so far a new knife, and then we have bonus content: a booklet of concept art and an expansion most would’ve owned anyways. Apparently the two are separate from one another. One is meant to allow you to personalize your character more (cosmetically at least); the other, well I’m not sure what it is really supposed to do. The whole issue could have been avoided if Dice had simply brought everything under the umbrella of “bonus content” and allowed the “bonus” art booklet to slip under the radar as Premium players explored the more important in-game content. That, or Dice would have been better off just not releasing any “bonus content.” After all, people can’t be disappointed by promises that aren’t made.

This actually leads into my next point: I think the name “bonus content” is misleading, and only serves to increase our expectations about what said content might be. A bonus is something we think of as good—some type of benefit for which people get their hopes up. You’re elated when you get a bonus for doing a good job at work (you get the benefit of extra pay), but you’re disappointed when you get bonus content that really isn’t significant, like a digital art book. Premium so far has over promised its “bonus content,” because of the name, and under delivered. We thought we’d get something substantive to enhance our experience, but were thoroughly underwhelmed; that’s why people are upset. If Dice had decided to call “bonus content” “additional content,” we might not have gotten our hopes up and instead taken it literally as something additional but not necessarily beneficial.

I had such high hopes for Premium to be so much more than just a season pass for DLC. Yes, the big draw for Premium is the chance to get all of the DLC at a discounted one-time fee. But with the extra content, Premium isn’t just trying to be just a run of the mill season pass but rather a complete service.  Unfortunately Premium is trending towards the former. Maybe this is just a little bump in the road—the growing pains a new service must go through before it steps up to really wow its subscribers. There are still two bonus content drops left, so perhaps Dice can get those right, but I’m not holding my breath.

But enough about what I think, it’s time to get your thoughts on the matter. Are you angry about the disappointing bonus content drop? Do you think those who are should just get over it? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.