The Sweetness of Free Gaming Content.

Last week I wrote an article discussing expansion packs, what they are, why they exist, and why you should or shouldn't purchase one. Earlier today, however, Stardock Software sent out a press release announcing a free expansion pack for their hit strategy title, Galactic Civilizations. This isn't the first time free content has been released for loyal customers, but it is one of the more ambitious pieces of free content released since Total Annihilation, which released weekly free units for quite some time.

The Galactic Civilization pack, entitled Expanded Universe ironically enough, adds dozens of new features to the game at no cost to current customers. Some of these features include a new rally point system, a better-integrated encyclopedia, updated graphics, new play modes, cheat keys, and a lot more. There are more than one hundred new features in this expansion pack, which you can read about by clicking here.

Now, you might be asking yourself, "Why don't more companies release free content like this?" The answer, simply, is monetary in nature. Stardock is in the unique position that they don't need to rely entirely on the income from their gaming franchise, since they have another business involving Windows customization. They're also small enough that their overhead isn't very big, compared to large companies like Microsoft or Electronic Arts.

There's another issue at work here as well, and that's the player-developer relationship. Many game developers usually speak out only in interviews and articles about themselves, and honestly they don't have the time to invest in listening to their fans, though some are better than others. Stardock, on the other hand, spent quite a bit of time talking not only to journalists, but to fans as well, asking them what they wanted, what they liked and didn't like, and so on. Through this constant stream of communications, Stardock created one of the best science-fiction grand strategy games of the last few years. Assuredly, this free expansion pack will only further cement the positive relations between the creators and their fans.

Overall, while free content such as this is still not as prevalent as I would like, I'm hoping that if this free content leads to more sales of the parent game, Galactic Civilizations, than other companies will follow suit. For fans of this game such as myself, this is an exciting development, and one that I hope will continue far into the future. You can learn more about Galactic Civilizations by clicking here, and you can learn more about the free expansion by clicking here.

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