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Online gaming costs set to rise

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Four new maps for the Xbox game Halo 2 are now available for download onto the console.

The new maps breathe life into Halo 2's multiplayer element and will undoubtedly spark a renewed rush to pick up the controller.

Downloadable content has become part and parcel of online gaming, especially for Xbox users who can store new content on the machine's hard drive.

New maps, levels, cars and weapons have become familiar adds-ons for gamers.
In Halo 2's case the new content comes with a catch, of sorts - while two of the maps are free, the other two cost £2.99 for the pair.

If gamers wait until the summer, all four of the maps will be free, but for hard core fans the temptation to pay out will be strong - especially when all it takes is a click of a button.
More than 6.7 million gamers have bought Halo 2 since its release in November last year and if only one in 10 of those buy the maps that is an additional £2m of revenue.

So are the paid-for maps worth the cost?

Rob Fahey, editor of Gamesindustry.biz website, said: "It depends largely on how much you play Halo 2 online.

"There are people playing every day and for them £2.99 will bring hours and hours of gaming, which is good value."

Downloadable content is likely to be a core component of all the next generation of consoles from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony.

"Microsoft want to tap into a cultural trend of customisation," explained Mr Fahey. Electronic Arts too has spoken about "micro transactions", letting gamers buy "gear" for their video games for small fees.

But he warned games developers and publishers from trying to exploit gamers by selling content which had been intended to form part of the original game.

"I'm aware of a strategy of some publishers to finish a game and then take content out, only to charge for it later.

"That is immoral and will soon backfire on publishers."

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