Earlier in the week it was announced that J.K Rowling's play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which still sounds like a terrible piece of fan fiction) will be split into two parts. I repeat: a play is being split into TWO PARTS! Now splitting content into two parts is nothing new. It's been done on TV for years with two part stories and two part finales, but content creators have seen in recent years that splitting content and selling it individually is profitable and now it's becoming the norm. With "the third generation" of video game consoles having internal memory and connection with the internet, video game developers came up with an idea. Why not create more content and have the customers download it, have it stored on their internal hard drives and have it only accessible via the game's original disc? It could be free or they could pay for the extra content.
This was the birth of DLC.
This wasn't the first time this was done, however, although it was originally done in a sneakier way. Occasionally developers would release a "collector's addition" of a game with "all new weapons, redefined gameplay and extra content, including..." and example of this is the Collector's Addition of Devil May Cry 3, which also included a side-story where you controlled the protagonist's twin brother in his own story. It was short and it was essentially a skin swap as you went through the same areas and fought the same bosses. This was in the 2000's and it may surprise you to know that "collector's additions" may not even be the first time this was done. In fact the earliest instance of this that I can find is with SEGA's Sonic 3 and its "sequel" Sonic & Knuckles, which were originally intended to be all the same game. Yes, this has been going on as early as the 90's. SEGA split the game in half and sold the second part of game as its own title. This also explains why the games were able to connect together for one whole play through and why there were certain areas you just couldn't get to as Sonic & Tails in Sonic 3. The internet didn't exist in its current form back then so it was a lot easier to keep a secret.
Additional content was mostly video game exclusive until 2010. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was released. When it was announced I agreed with it. There was far too much that needed to be included for the story to work and I still believe it was the only way to tell the story, but other companies took notice of the success of splitting a book into two parts and we were unfortunately given Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2. It was at this moment I knew we were in trouble. Why? Because Breaking Dawn didn't need to be split into two parts because nothing bloody happened! People were calling it out as the cash grab the moment it was announced and so many of my friends who were fans of the series complained and said it was pointless because nothing happened in the story until right near the end. Even then they told me it was a build up to what turned out to be a huge anticlimax.
But uh-oh! Mockingjay is now a two part film as well! Oh and let's not forget The Hobbit, a 125 page novel that was first announced to be a two parter as well, only to then be extended into its own trilogy! Yes, they added stuff that wasn't in the original novel, but that was most fan's problem with the trilogy. It wasn't the story they had wanted to see and there were many complaints about the pacing of the films because they were stretched out so thinly that it reportedly became more of an endurance test for the fans rather than an enjoyable experience. In regards to Mockingjay being split into two films, I still think it was pointless. It was no longer than any of the other books and the novel didn't feel like it had more going on than the previous books. They were all slow and had times when it felt like nothing was particularly happening, even when they were in the actual Hunger Games. ockingly is no different. All the action happens near the end of the book when the resistance finally attack Panem. It's certainly more fast paced than its predecessors but all the major action still happens at the end. It's actually gotten to the point where, upon seeing the trailer for Part 2, that I actually felt more relieved that it was finally ending than being excited. Maybe my opinion will change after seeing the final part but for now it just feels like another cash grab.
That's not even the worse example. In 2014 Konami released Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. It was advertised as a prologue to the future title, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and at first I wasn't concerned. It may not be as long as a regular MGS title but surely it'll be fun and at a reasonable price: most probably a £5 download only title. Knowing it wouldn't be that long, I stayed away from any gameplay footage presented at game events. Then the game's length was released and the gaming community went nuts. They claimed that the game could "take hours" depending on how you played it. It was originally set to be released at a standard retail price but was later dropped down when it became clear that people weren't happy. Now how long can it take to beat it? The record time it just over six minutes and that isn't even a joke. You can literally rush through the game, skip cutscenes and the game wouldn't take you more than ten minutes if you got a perfect play through. I completed the game in forty-five minutes on my first try and that was with never seeing any of the gameplay footage. They had a few extra smaller missions added for after you beat the game but the problem with that was that you could complete them all in 20 minutes. When you take into account that the fastest playtime for the game is just over 6 minutes, that's not even a half-hour amount of content and it was being sold for £30 in the UK. It was shorter than the prologue mission in Metal Gear Solid 2!
I'm all for creative freedom but this doesn't excuse the fact that content creators are exploiting our desire for content by splitting it into separate parts to sell. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. My 2000's were mostly dedicated to the series. I was always reading Harry Potter, watching Harry Potter, playing Harry Potter or writing Harry Potter. The only other things that held my attention were Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid and the Final Fantasy VII Compilation. I'm a huge Potterhead. I had the games on multiple consoles, I have two wands, I had the cards, I have multiple Harry Potter t-shirts, I've had to replace some of my novels after they broke apart from too much use, I have a Gryffindor robe for cosplay, I went to the studios before it was even officially open, went for a second time a few months afterwards, have made homemade Butterbeer and even have all the maps from the games memorised after all the hours I spent playing them- and that's not even a joke. I recently replayed the GameBoy Colour games on an emulator and I remembered where everything was, including the secret passageways. Why did I tell you all that embarrassing information? Because I want you to know that even as a huge Harry Potter fan that I'm annoyed about The Cursed Child being split into two parts.
I want more content. I managed to be a beta tester for Pottermore in its early stages. I was ecstatic when they announced Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Hell, I'd even be happy if they suddenly announced they were making a film about the Quidditch Through The Ages book and at one point I considered making a fake-fan trailer for it just for a laugh. Having gone to see Wicked at the theatre I was surprised and unbelievably happy when The Cursed Child was announced to be going into production and while there maybe enough content for it to be split into two plays, I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. I'm sick of content being split in half and being expected to pay twice. I understand why and wouldn't expect it to be any other way. It's a business after all, but at the end of the day it feels like companies are taking advantage of us and in some cases (*cough* Breaking Dawn *cough*) it's far too obvious.
At the same time I know that I'll go and see both parts of The Cursed Child, just like how I went and bought Ground Zeroes. This post isn't a complaint about The Cursed Child in particular and if it shows that it warrants the two part format than I'll happily admit it. This post is more of a complaint about the current situation we're in when it comes to content creator/consumer relationships. It's a vicious cycle and sadly I can only see it getting worse.