This month, XBOX Live will release a multiplayer map pack for one of their most popular games, Gears of War. This pack will cost 800 XBL points (about $10) and will feature four new settings for multiplayer mayhem.

Epic Games, creator of the smash hit, has a history of releasing new content for existing games for free; and they did so two months ago with Gears, adding new maps and new modes for play. The current pack was to have been gratis also; however, Micro$oft balked at the idea and wanted a charge put on the new content. Epic fought back and forth with them and finally agreed on a compromise: the maps would have a fee attached initially, then would be free after a certain period. In this case, that’s September….four months down the line, when all talk will then be focused on the mega-release of Halo 3.

I will not be purchasing the new maps. Further, I will not be talking up Gears to any acquaintances on XBOX or elsewhere, as I had done for the last 5 months since its release. In September, I’ll pick up the maps for free, then resume my stance that GOW is the best game currently on the 360.

Microsoft, have some brains. Cultivate the LONG TERM gamer. Stop nickle and diming us to death. I for one, am glad that these games are not self-contained. They allow for updates and new formats and glitch fixes and so on. But these items SHOULD BE FREE. We’re already paying almost $70 for a new game, throw some good feeling our way. Follow Epic’s lead. They were already pretty much assured a fan base with gamers, who’ll follow them to the inevitable Gears 2. But they engender just that much more positive buzz by taking care of their customers.

So, for now, I’m on a Gears self-imposed gag order….