ChainsodomyThis July Microsoft is releasing a new collection of “Gears of Wars 2” add-on content (details here).

The retail version will include the Flashback, Snowblind, and Combustible map packs, which cost $5, $10, and $10, respectively, to download on Xbox Live, along with the new “Dark Corners” add-on, which has a new campaign chapter and seven multi-player maps. Cost: $20. A great deal.

But for gamers who already own those map packs, Microsoft is offering “Dark Corners” by itself for digital download. The cost: $20.

Eh?

Let’s get this straight: People who download via Xbox Live get a portion of the content available at retail for the exact same price. And remember that distributing content on XBL costs substantially less than selling it at retail, since there’s no manufacturing costs, no shipping costs, and no retailer to split the proceeds with. So Microsoft’s profit margins are much bigger on that $20. Sounds like a major rip-off to me.

In fact, customers who have already bought the map packs and now buy “Dark Corners” are paying over twice as much as those who buy the entire retail package. Even allowing for some kind of discount on the first three map packs over time, that’s pretty damned bad.

Considering that the people who download content on XBL are probably Microsoft’s most loyal customers, it sounds like the Xbox 360 maker is giving fans a little financial chainsodomy.

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