resolution devolution

Dragon Age 2 was released a few weeks ago, and from what I hear it kicks ass. EA’s in some hot water for sneaking SecuROM in under the radar, which they certainly should have known better than to attempt. But that’s actually not what grabbed my attention. On March 7, BioWare announced the release of the DA2 high resolution texture pack.

March 7 was one day before the game’s retail release. What?
I’m a little baffled about this, but more concerned. This seems to be riding the wave of cut-corner game development that’s been plaguing the industry for several years now. Bethesda is known as the worst offender on this front, but this move by BioWare seems to be a more subtle form of the infection.
This is said to be a move by the developers to appease PC gamers, who claim that the PC version of the demo was inferior due to its use of the console version’s textures. While the textures certainly weren’t the ultra-sharp textures the hexacore users with triple-Crossfire video cards have wet dreams about, but they’re nothing to ashamed of, either. They certainly don’t hurt the experience. My initial reaction to hearing about the texture pack was, “A game newly released in 2011 already needs a texture upgrade?” But there are implications worse than caving to the demands of slobbering keyboard jockeys. Something like this could be leveraged as marketing material.
I wouldn’t hesitate to believe that the release of the texture pack drove a significant number of sales of DA2, maybe not more than a few percent, but even that would have earned BioWare spare tens of thousands of dollars. How many more future games will be released, with high-resolution textures, or other things that should have been in the game from the start, announced at the last second and causing thousands of fans to flock to stores to pick up the game and then immediately download the content they should have already had. Or, in the case of Steam, they’ll download the game, and then download said content.
This could get out of hand badly. Here’s hoping it doesn’t.