When Lumines Live! emerged in October of last year, it ran headlong into a pack of outraged gamers who felt that the game's fragmented content and costs introduced an unwelcome element to the Xbox Live Marketplace -- a roving pickpocket you bump into between fruit stalls. New downloadable content is a touchy subject then, but it appears that next week's Live! offerings are a bit less backward and a bit less, well ... Evil!
Three new packs will be available this coming Wednesday, the first of which contains the Heavenly Star skin. Perhaps the fact that it will be free to Gold subscribers until February 21 is to be interpreted as a sign of atonement. The other two, namely the VS CPU pack and the Puzzle/Mission pack fill up the gaping holes in the base download, each costing a not entirely outrageous 100 points ($1.25) each. That lasts until February 21, after which the price goes up to a thoroughly questionable 300 points ($3.75).
Why raise the price after a month? The Gamerscore Blog labels these as "special promotional prices," which really just comes across as a temporary and thinly-veiled apology cringed out by the marketing department. So, why retract the apology then? The quest for more money seems tied to the obvious answer, but that's only if you felt that Lumines Live! got microtransactions completely wrong in the first place. All things considered, the game makes for a balanced example of what's wrong and what's right in the world of pint-sized payments:
What Lumines Live! did right:
- Divided content: The concept of only buying the chunks of the game you're interested in is a sound one. Of course, this can be taken to extremes and games can be split into microscopic, microtransacted pieces, but working with large, clearly defined and entirely seperate parts holds clear benefits. Why bother paying for a full game if you're not going to experience every facet? If you're only concerned with the continuous Challenge mode in Lumines and not the less robust VS or Puzzle modes, you should end up saving money and time.
- Provided ease of expansion: Should you change your mind and desire more content, it's extremely simple to find and download more skins and modes. Once it's on the hard drive, it's in the game's main menu.
- Featured discernable improvement over other versions: You would expect this to be the most obvious part, but several past XBLA titles have indicated that not all developers bother to enhance their established games when shifting to the marketplace. Though newcomers to the series may not appreciate it nearly as much, 5.1 sound and HD graphics make a noticeable impact on a game so rich in presentation. There is some value to playing this game on the Xbox 360 and not the PSP.
What Lumines Live! did wrong:
- Divided content, and then advertised it badly: Not only did the game's trial version make it hideously unclear as to what content the full package would bring to the table, it constantly reminded you of what you were missing out on. Having the game grind to a halt and remind you to download the next level was undiplomatic to the extreme and is exactly what infuriated gamers. Having empty modes listed in the main menu only perpetuated the idea that players weren't getting a "full" game at all.
- It was quite obviously too expensive: Should you be unfortunate enough to shop after February 21st, you'll end up paying $30 for the complete Lumines Live! package. That's exactly the same price as Lumines II on the PSP, which contains nearly double the amount of skins in its Challenge mode -- most of them also present in Lumines Live!. The aforementioned sound and visual quality gives some leeway here, but not nearly enough.
- Succumbed to silly XBLA size limitations: The paltry base pack that started off Lumines Live! didn't feature enough content for anyone to be remotely satisfied. The 50MB XBLA limit meant that an expansion to the original download was available almost immediately. Only it wasn't an expansion at all -- it was the piece of game (meat pun!) that ended up on the wrong side of the cleaver.
Know what it is you want in a game (any game), and how much you're willing to pay for it. That makes it sound like some sort of robotic calculation, but any long-term gamer knows that it eventually becomes entirely instinctual. You know what makes you happy. Microtransactions won't be fooling you today.