There's a handy little robot in Dead Space 3. It's designed to collect resources for you in the new sci-fi horror game, released for Xbox 360 and PS3 today.
But as helpful as it is, it may be a little too helpful. Like, too helpful at getting you to open your wallet.
We already know that Dead Space 3 features DLC that looks a lot like microtransactions. You can pay real-world money for in-game items like suits, skins and upgrades.
But my gut tells me that the cute little scavenger bot was built with a specific purpose outside of getting you resources. Sure, it's handy. I can send my bot out and go to the workbench to find a ton more tungsten or semiconductors that I can use to outfit my rig or craft new weapons with. But wouldn't it be easier to dock the price of resources on these upgrades? Or simply give me more loot to find around each map?
Several of the already-available downloadable content packages center on the tiny bot that Isaac (or co-op partner Carver) can equip to send out on scavenging-for-resources missions. It scurries around dead bodies to find you resources that you can use on weapon and rig upgrades while you're off killing Necromorphs and listening to audio logs.
You can access downloadable content through Dead Space 3's workbenches. You can see the content that's already available for purchase with real money or, in the case of certain packages, in-game resources.
Resources can be gathered off of corpses, loot boxes, and other storage containers, too. But sending out the bot gets you a ton more with nary a finger lifted. You can then turn those resources into items to craft bigger, badder weapons. And weapon-crafting happens to be one of the best things about Dead Space 3.
I don't have a problem with the existence of microtransactions so long as it doesn't interfere with my own game. If I'm not being held back in a significant way by not forking over real cash, I'm ok. I'm skeptical of the intentions behind DLC like this, but I also don't let my need for weaponry and achievements and random in-game swag get the better of me.
The scavenger bot is a conduit for paying for the privilege of more resources, faster harvest times and, sure, a personality modifier. The scavenger bot feeds into the most obsessive gamer's desires to collect everything, and collect it fast. Want that sweet HUN-E1 Badger shotgun? Want it now? Pay for some scavenger bot DLC and we'll expedite that right away! It's a neat trick.
Of course, fragmented game experiences chopped into DLC is nothing new. Paying for DLC-specific weapons is nothing new. Paying for privilege is nothing new. Heck, Dead Space itself has been there in the past. But the scavenger bot is the perfect excuse to make an extra buck out of the situation without making it seem too much like that's what its purpose is.
Yet when you think about it, doesn't it seem obvious?