BlazBlue Cross-Tag Battle's disappointing, borderline exploitative DLC

BlazBlue Cross-Tag Battle was one of my most anticipated fighting games of the year. A crossover tag fighter featuring not two but four of my favorite anime styled franchises, BBCT was going to be a contender for best fighting game of 2018. Let me put an emphasis on “was” there, because it appears as If Arc System Works is following in the footsteps of EA and ruining an otherwise amazing game with a borderline abusive take on extra paid content.

Don’t get me wrong, ASW isn’t letting you pay for power. However, they are selling you an incomplete game. I feel dirty saying that. People who claim that games are sold incomplete these days and that all DLC should be free usually don’t have any idea how the economics of the game industry work. However, this is an instance where that absolutely is the case.

It’s not like ASW is pulling a Capcom and forgetting to include an Arcade Mode. They aren’t making you pay an exorbitant amount of money for extra costumes. They aren’t locking extra modes or balance patches behind DLC. No, they are doing the same thing that every fighting game does: selling you extra characters as DLC. All of this would have been fine, good, moral, and ethical, except ASW really took it to an extreme.

Character count

First of all, the 20 characters that have been revealed so far will make up the game’s roster at launch. This alone is problematic. For a crossover title, between BlazBlue Under-Night, Persona, and RWYBY, anyone but BlazBlue is getting the short end of the stick. Persona and Under-Night only have four characters on the roster each. Meanwhile RWBY has only two characters. This is the only franchise that ASW needed to make new assets for, and we are only getting two. That’s abysmal.

Meanwhile BlazBlue gets ten characters. To be honest, I expected that BlazBlue would make up the majority of the roster, but I didn’t expect this degree of roster domination. BlazBlue characters make up half the roster! That’s as much as the three other IPs combined.

However, this is nowhere near what the final game’s roster is going to look like. Like most fighting games BBCT is going to break up its DLC into seasons, and it’s first season of DLC will include 20… yes… 20 characters. 20 DLC characters already planned. Half the roster is going to be locked behind a DLC paywall. That’s terrible, and in this case, borderline exploitative.

For starters, the game doesn’t even give you access to the main four characters of the RWBY franchise. For those of you who aren’t fans, those characters are Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang. Only Ruby and Weiss will be part of the initial roster. Blake will be available at launch as a DLC character, though her pricing hasn’t been revealed yet.

Yang is by far the fan-favorite from the core RWBY four (yeah… I said it… fight me!) and she is nowhere to be seen. However, when you look at ASW’s proposed DLC plans, her release window is clear.

  • DLC Character All-in-One Pack
  • DLC Character: Blake Belladonna
  • DLC Character Set Vol. 1: ???, ???, and ???
  • DLC Character Set Vol. 2: ???, ???, and ???
  • DLC Character Set Vol. 3: ???, ???, and ???
  • DLC Character Set Vol. 4: ???, ???, and ???
  • DLC Character Set Vol. 5: ???, ???, and ???
  • DLC Character Set Vol. 6: ???, ???, and ???
  • DLC Character: ???

Note that every other DLC character is being sold in sets of three, except RWBY characters. Thus, the final DLC character, the character that we will see well after we know if the game will live or die, will be Yang. It feels as if ASW is specifically holding her back to keep RWBY fans playing the game. It also means that we won’t see a single RWBY character beyond the core four.

So that means that, of 18 DLC characters, only two are going to use new assets. Every other character in the roster is going to be an asset flip, a conversion of sprites that ASW already has available to them, and for some reason we are paying extra for them. Once again, this is borderline exploitative. Even if they added one or two asset flip characters to the DLC roster fans wouldn’t have minded that much. But 18? Nearly half the roster is filled with re-used characters that you have to pay a premium for? That’s unacceptable and the internet is already making their opinions known.

To be fair to Arc System Works, this might not be as bad as it looks. For one, the game is retailing for a little over 5000 yen online in Japan. This sometimes translates to a budget price here in the states. Combine that budget price with a reasonable price for the DLC All-in-One Pack, and you might be able to get the full BBCT experience for maybe $70 or $80, which isn’t a bad price for a fighting game with a 40 character roster.

It almost doesn’t matter if ASW charges a fair price because this DLC plan has delivered BBCT a kiss of death by harming its image. This plan is going to have a massive negative impact on day one sales. I wouldn’t be surprised if potential sales were cut by at least half by stubborn gamers who are putting their foot down and saying “we will not pay for all this DLC.” That being said, ASW still might make a decent profit on BBCT since so much of the game is made of re-used assets anyway.

I think ASW is making a huge mistake. 2018 is a year filled with stellar fighting games. There are already too many games on the market to feasibly play them all. Not to mention they and Bandai Namco have another incredible fighting game coming out in a few months, Dragon Ball FighterZ. It would have made more sense to elongate BBCT’s development time, include most characters made up of re-used assets in the initial roster, charge a non-budget price for the game, and then release only a few brand new characters are slightly more expensive DLC.

Hilariously enough, this model may have caused players to pay more in the long run for fewer characters, but it would have damaged the game’s image less. At the bare minimum, the core four RWBY characters should have been playable from the start. However, fan favorite characters like Mitsuru and Akihiko from Persona, and Carmine and Merkava from Under-Night, should have been included as well.

In a world where gamers are standing up and saying NO to exploitative practices in DLC and microtransactions, BBCT is now uniquely positioned as having the worst DLC model in fighting game history.

No other fighting game locked half of its roster behind DLC at launch. ASW is known for making very “complete” games with tons of tutorials, extra modes, stories, dual language dubs, and more. Despite their commitment to quality game content, they are going to need to do a lot to redeem BBCT in the minds of consumers. At the bare minimum they need to ditch their commitment to delay based netcode and catch up to every other fighting game developer that has switched to the obviously superior rollback netcode, but that’s an article for another time. In layman’s terms, ASW is going to need to make BBCT one of their greatest fighting games ever to warrant the 20 character DLC roster, and the chances of seeing a “season 2” of BBCT DLC are slim at best.

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle will launch for PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC via Steam on May 31 in Japan and Asia, and June 5 in North America.

What do you think? Has BBCT’s massive DLC roster ruined the game for you or will you be purchasing it anyway? Let us know in the comments.