The first paid-for downloadable content on Microsoft's Xbox Live service has appeared, in the form of a new package for MechAssault which adds new multiplayer content to the game for a $5 fee.
The new content, labelled as an "objective package", consists of two entirely new multiplayer modes for the game along with three new maps, and is just the latest in a range of updates and bonus material for the game which has been released over Live since the game was launched last year.
In order to access the content, gamers need to enable Premium Content downloads on their Xbox Live account, and then when they download the Objective Package, $4.99 (Â£3.63) will be deducted automatically from the credit card they used to sign up to the Live service.
This is the first time that this form of paid-for content has appeared on Xbox Live, but it's unlikely to be the last. Many publishers are keen to experiment with this revenue model, which would see developers continuing to work on content for popular games after their retail release and gamers paying a small amount for each new item of content downloaded.
For Xbox Live users, this will be the first time they've had to hand over money for anything on the service since they purchased the original Xbox Live starter kit. Some gamers have expressed concern that this new model may lead to publishers releasing unfinished games and then charging for "additional" content which should have been in the original game, although there has been no sign of this happening so far - and it seems likely that should it occur, the gaming public would vote with their wallets to prevent it from happening again.
Update: We're informed that in fact there is precedent for paid-for content being launched on Xbox Live - with a premium song pack for Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix being made available on the service earlier this month at a cost of $5. However this package was not available outside the USA, making the MechAssault update the first time that such content has been available here in Europe. Apologies for any confusion caused.