If there ever was a more vilified entity in gaming than the dreaded DLC (downloadable content), I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen it. It affects gamers everywhere, fans of every genre, every console and every publisher. There is no fan favorite publisher out there who strays away from DLC because of how huge of a market there is for it right now, and for them to ignore it would be leaving money on the table. Gamers have a very interesting love/hate relationship with it that usually lands on the “hate” end of the spectrum more than the “love” end, but there are times when DLC is lauded as a worthy addition to the original title.
I guess the question is; why is DLC so prevalent in gaming today? The answer is quite simple; because most gamers have a high speed internet connection and have been willing to purchase additional content for games that they enjoy, even if they grumble about it and say that they never will again. It has become a standard for many game publishers to assume that their consumer will spend above and beyond the cost of the game itself during the lifecycle of said game, in some instance gamers spending almost the same amount on DLC as they did on the game itself. Not every gamer is willing to drop that kind of money, but most gamers are willing to drop some money, especially if there is a discount, which has led to the rise of “Season Passes” for games. Season Passes provide a moderate discount on content over the lifecycle of the game and publishers have seen more gamers willing to purchase a pass giving them a moderate discount than to pay full price for all of the content.
That is why DLC is everywhere and why it isn’t going anywhere; because game companies have begun to rely on it as a source of income. DLC — or expansion packs — isn’t a new concept at all, as we’ve seen PC games for many years release expansion packs after they were released with additional game content that requires you to own the original game, but sells at a much lower price than a full game. Some games have lived on for years after their release thanks to expansion packs, and have even seen bundles sold of the game with multiple expansion packs to extend the life even more. So when this phenomenon came to console games, it was not shocking at all, but not many had imagined that it would take over like it has.
As with anything else, there are some serious pros and cons to DLC. The pros are obvious — you are getting more of the game that you love! C’mon, what could be better? Yeah, you have to pay for it and yeah you need the hard drive space for it, but it can be some awesome content that is well worth your money. It also helps to support your favorite game developers and shows them that you are willing to buy more of their work and are enjoying what they are doing, which can lead to more of the games you like in the future. Plus, DLC is cheaper than just buying a new game most of the time, so if you find yourself sick of your favorite online shooter because of the maps, a new map pack can bring new life into the game and hold off purchasing a new game for a while.
On the other side of the coin, the cons are pretty awful. A lot of game developers are holding back content which would normally be in the full game because publishers see it as an “extra” and see dollar signs for releasing it as DLC. I mean, c’mon, we all know what’s up with those 200kb downloads for DLC, it is clearly on the disc and intended to be in the game. DLC is a lot of the time way overpriced, as well. I’ve always been a fan of pricing a game’s value in how many hours of play it will bring me, which means $60 for a 30 hour long game is perfectly reasonable. A $20 DLC pack that brings maybe 5 hours of gameplay to the table becomes a whole lot less impressive when you do the math. So many games get DLC now that shouldn’t get DLC, which distracts the developers from focusing on future games and sometimes supporting a game that really should just be left as-is, which means that you the gamer are getting shoddy DLC and a shoddy experience overall.
So DLC can be evil and DLC can be amazing, it seems, and like everything else, it really is a case-by-case basis for where it falls. I for one would love to see a little bit more thought put into the idea of DLC because not every game might need it, while some games that do need it might not get enough or it might just be priced all wrong. It is up to us as gamers to vote with our hard-earned money for what we find valuable and not just fall for game publishers’ marketing ploys.