Dreamlight Valley’s “Rift in time” expansion is account locked on PlayStation and Xbox
Publisher Gameloft have decided to account-lock one of their expansions on consoles (PlayStation and Xbox). This is *** off parents who can’t easily buy the DLC for their kids, and people who bought the DLC for the wrong account by mistake (and can’t get a refund). Not to mention those who have to buy the same expansion multiple times for all members of their household to play on the same console. One of the top trending topics in the DreamlightValley subreddit currently is a thread with hundreds of comments complaining about the situation.
The digital future is now, it stinks, and it’s driven by the greed of companies like Gameloft.
What is the Rift in Time expansion for Dreamlight Valley, and why is it account locked?
You might have caught me a few days ago on Twitter, singing the praises of Gameloft’s game Dreamlight Valley, a life simulator similar to animal crossing, set in the Disney universe. What I had to say at the time was as follows:
I’m amazed at how enjoyable Dreamlight Valley is. My daughters love it and constantly want to show me their progress. Gameloft’s recent decision to *not* make it an f2p crippled with microtransactions is what convinced me to buy it. We play offline (on PS5), zero problem.
That was roughly two weeks ago, but things have changed significantly.
Yesterday, Gameloft released a long-awaited expansion to their game, A Rift in Time. The expansion introduces new characters to unlock as well as new areas to explore. I, like many other parents, was looking forward to buy it for my kids. But because I know it is never easy when it comes to digital purchases, I double checked on reddit and other sites, that the DLC actually shares across accounts on the same console (like the game does). Answer: it does not.
What I found instead were dozens of angry parents who couldn’t share the DLC with their kids after buying it, folks who bought the DLC for their partner, only to realize the DLC didn’t work on other accounts on the same console, and so on. There’s a huge list of people who purchased by mistake, expecting the DLC to work “normally” and share across accounts. Many of these people are now waiting for a refund.
Following the complaints, Gameloft retroactively created an entry in the game’s FAQ, which confirms the behavior is intentional:
If there are multiple user profiles on a console, only the user profile that purchased the expansion pass will be able to access the expansion content in-game.
The different types of DLCs, and policies surrounding them on Xbox/PlayStation
Generally speaking, there are two types of DLCs that ca be purchased on digital platforms such as Xbox and PlayStation (it’s a bit more diverse than that but we’ll simplify a bit here). Microsoft describe those as “consumable” and “durable”. Consumables are things such as in-game currency, custom items, etc…. Durable DLCs are, in Microsoft’s example, “map packs and game expansions”.
Microsoft’s development guidelines go further in explicitly stating that “consumable” DLCs are not appropriate for expansions (emphasis mine):
The most common use of consumable products is to implement a premium in-game currency. The user purchases these products with real money in exchange for an allotment of the in-game currency. This currency is then exchanged in-game for temporary power-ups, cosmetic items, loot boxes, or other items related to a single user’s account. Consumables are not appropriate for implementing access to expansions, map packs, or other items that would be expected to be shared within a Home Console or PC scenario.
It is likely PlayStation have similar policies.
It would appear however that Gameloft have implemented their expansion as a “consumable”, meaning that 1) it is locked to a specific account instead of being shared within the household, and 2) this implies it can possibly be bought multiple times by the same user (by mistake, obviously). This has been somewhat confirmed at least by one reddit user who bought it twice on a single Xbox account:
In other words, although it is technically possible to mark an expansion pack as a “consumable”, this appears to be frowned upon by Microsoft and Sony on their stores, and it also can lead to very real mistakes such as the one above (although that example above was intentionally done by the reddit user to test the “consumables” theory). Keep in mind that “frowned upon” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s against the stores policies. Only that it is discouraged.
Is it ok to account-lock expansions to a game?
PlayStation and Xbox users are impacted by this limitation, but Switch users have reported that they can share the DLC on multiple accounts on the Switch. It is unknown whether this is due to a limitation in the Switch DLC entitlement system, or if Nintendo’s policy related to this kind of shady practice is a bit stricter than PlayStation and Xbox.
But just because Gameloft can do this on some platforms, doesn’t mean they should. Some people in the discussion threads on reddit seem to agree with Gameloft’s decision, stating that each user should pay for their game. Don’t get me wrong, there is some merit to this argument. In particular, I am not against the need to purchase the same game multiple times when you want it on multiple platforms. Developing a game for various platforms represents a significant cost for game studios, and they need to know which platforms are worth investing further into. Paying them for the game on the platforms you want to play on reflects that, and so in my opinion is expected. It also stands to reason that unrelated people have to pay for their own copy of the game. Otherwise we’re talking piracy.
I do disagree however when it comes to making all members of a single household pay for a single game that will be played on the same console. I personally find this move anti-consumer, when it comes to the same household. In my case, Gameloft expected to sell me the DLC twice (once per kid). For that, they just lost the sale entirely. This isn’t a night at the movies, where we’re all paying for some critical resource (the seats of the theater). My stance is that when I rent or buy a movie to watch at home, the price isn’t multiplied by the number of people sitting on the couch, and games I play at home should be the same. You’re allowed to disagree. You’d be wrong of course, but you have the right to your opinion 😛
It’s more than just the greed
Whether you agree with the fact that multiple members of the same household should have to repurchase the game, the issue goes beyond the “greedy” aspect.
First of all, there is the problem that this isn’t common practice, and leads to purchase mistakes. In the reddit thread discussing the problem, countless users are discussing how they’re waiting for a refund after buying the DLC on the “wrong” account, because usually it just works and never is a problem. Some people in the thread stated most DLCs are tied to one account, but that feels inaccurate. A deeper dive would be necessary, but in my experience, DLCs on PlayStation are typically shared on all accounts of the primary console, and other users have confirmed that.
In the specific case of Dreamlight Valley the wording on the DLC’s page on PlayStation is, to say the least, confusing on that topic. As a matter of fact, the wording is exactly the same on the base game (which can be shared with other accounts on the same console) and the DLC (which cannot):
You can download and play this content on the main PS5 console associated with your account (through the “Console Sharing and Offline Play” setting) and on any other PS5 consoles when you login with your same account.
Nothing distinguishes the base game from the expansion on the PlayStation store, when it comes to the permissions it will give to guest accounts. As a matter of fact, “You can download and play this content on the main PS5 console associated with your account” implies that the content should be available to all accounts on the main console. The second part of the sentence “and on any other PS5 consoles when you login with your same account” is also a distinct element. In particular, the “when you login with your same account” part only applies to using another PS5. This is certainly how it works for PS5 games in general. The lack of distinction between the two store pages here at least leads to confusion.
Alternatively, most games allow for multiple save slots, which allows multiple users to play the same game on the same account.
On PC with Steam, it appears Dreamlight valley lets user create multiple saves, via the “cloud save” option (picture below). To my knowledge, this isn’t an option on the PS5: the game has one save per account, end of story. If the game supported multiple save, it would obviously be possible to just create multiple characters on the same account, therefore there wouldn’t be any issue. Minecraft is an example of a game with account-locked DLCs, but since you can create as many worlds as you want, multiple people in the same household playing on the same account is very doable (and that’s what we do in my family for Minecraft).
Furthermore, lots of us parents simply don’t want their kids to have a PlayStation Network account (or its Microsoft equivalent), for multiple legit reasons. This means that even if one wanted to pay multiple times for the DLC, it isn’t always practical to do so. In my case, buying the DLC for my daughters would mean creating a PSN account for them, which means they would need an email account to begin with… Look, eventually I know they’ll need email accounts, but they’re not there yet. I realize a lot of grownups play Disney games, but Dreamlight valley was also made for an audience of children who don’t have email or PSN accounts.
With a “single save per user” and “account locked expansion” decision, Gameloft are back to their greedy self with the new Rift in Time expansion for Dreamlight Valley. This sucks because there is a great game hiding underneath this shady business practice. Although nothing illegal is happening here, I personally believe this is a very anti-consumer move. The issue is impacting Dreamlight Valley “Rift in Time” on Xbox and PlayStation. Nintendo Switch seems to be unimpacted, and Steam users apparently have ways to work around the issue by creating multiple cloud saves on a single account.