The Mystery of the Lock Parsing DLC

There’s a lot of shovelware on Steam since it opened the floodgates, and honestly that’s fine.  Valve never wanted to be the gatekeeper to success, and getting out of the way of smaller titles sometimes lets excellent surprises like Superflight find an audience.  Others get lost in the crowd and sink like a stone, but that’s always been true even before the changes.  Allowing anyone who can pony up the $100 to get through the Steam front door does mean that some strange things walk on through, though.  Personally I’m a big fan of strange, but today’s DLC drop for the $1 game Lock Parsing wanders all the way over to “sketchy”.

Lock Parsing is a fairly simple game that tells you everything you need to know in its video.  You’ve got a key with a pattern carved out of it, you cycle the lock through pieces until you find the one that’s an inverse of that pattern, and when you join them up you get a new key to do it again.  The timer is always counting down, not even refilling when you make a match, so scoring is dependent on speed of pattern recognition without any chance of recovering from a mistake.  It feels more like a mindless mobile time-killer than a fully-fledged game, but whatever.  This isn’t a review and if the people who bought it get some enjoyment out of it more power to them.  Judging by the six user-reviews, none of which are in a language I can read, it didn’t set the Steam charts on fire.  Lock Parsing came out on December 21 and disappeared off the front page instantly, until it resurfaced again today.

Odds are good this won’t last long, so here’s the pricing structure preserved in all its glory.

Today sees the release of four pieces of DLC titled Aluminum, Chrome, Steel, and Gold.  All they seem to do is change the color of the metal on the locks and keys.  They’re sold separately or you can buy all four together with the core game for a discount.  Where things get weird, though, is the price.  Each DLC has a standard price of $199.99, on sale for a launch discount of $119.99 apiece.  Bargain discount like that, you might as well buy them all.  But wait, there’s more!  If you buy all four DLC with the core game you can get the whole combo unit for the rock-bottom price of $19.24!  Yes, you read that right, it’s a 98% discount, which no sane connoisseur of cheap gaming can afford to pass up. Get yours today!  Or not.  Especially seeing as, if you owned the game and actually had $20 to spend on incredibly minor cosmetic adjustments you’d be unable to due to the non-insanely priced collection including the core game, therefore blocking the purchase.

It would be all kinds of fun to come up with a good conspiracy as to what this is all about.  It seems pretty obvious the DLC isn’t meant to be purchased at its current price.  Maybe it was supposed to be $1.99 and the 9 key was stuck on each of the four separate entries.  Maybe the developer figures all they need is a single combined sale of all four DLCs and they’ve finally turned a profit.  It’s possible they figured if they took something as simple as a color-swap and overpriced it so thoroughly it would bring attention to their forgotten game.  There’s probably a perfectly logical reason behind this, but my personal hope is that someone is using Steam as a numbers station and the DLC hides a secret message.  There’s no way to know for sure, so we might as well make up the best story possible to explain it.