I am probably with the majority when I say that the most recent onslaught of paid downloadable content has a negative impact on the games industry. From Mass Effect 3’s terrible marketing scheme to the horse armor offered for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, DLC is mainly considered a means for a company to stretch a franchise thin and goad customers out of their money. However, I do beg to differ from this general opinion—while day one DLC has a negative impact, there are still good ways to implement DLC, including paid DLC. Here are just a few features that can justify paid DLC.
First of all, paid DLC must not be released on day one. Whether they are additional weapons, armor, extra episodes, extra maps, or anything represented in the game, this kind of release only shows that the company intentionally left the DLC out of the game in order to force-feed it back to the customer. If the DLC is free, it works more like timed marketing: not only do you get a game, but you get a free add-on for it! It encourages people to buy the game in the first place. In this regard, paid DLC still has a negative effect right when customers are buying the game—they already put down between $40 and $60 to purchase a game, gamers won’t go out of their way to purchase $5 of extra content that should have been included, and may skip out if they realize it’s a pay-to-win game.
However, as time goes on and a game becomes older—perhaps a few months after its release—developers can see exactly how well their game did, what its weakness was, what they’re missing, and how to improve it—and everything can be addressed through DLC. Adding on new classes, sidequests, jobs, areas, and even sections of the plot that they originally had no budget for might be a possibility for developers. As with Dawnguard and potentially Hearthfire, Skyrim expanded its premise and allowed for more content in a game already rich with it. Previously, new installments had to be manufactured and delivered on separate discs, making it a much more expensive risk than today’s DLC is. DLC saved companies like Bethesda money, as well as consumers, by removing that physical medium from the transaction entirely.
Along with that, if a game did poorly, they can at least try to get enough money to break even by developing and selling more additions to the plot. This new content might also invigorate sales, helping developers who created less-than-popular games to avoid bankruptcy. Looking at the huge amount of artistic and creative games in the past that went unnoticed and never received a sequel, DLC might have been a blessing for them and could have kept those games alive.
Again, DLC can have huge negative impacts. Day-one DLC, DLC that gets unlocked from the disc or original game, and pay-to-win-type DLC just serves to give a positive development in game history a bad reputation. It is possible, despite the marketing tactics that select companies employ, to use DLC for good purposes. Expanding games, adding on to them, and extending them is a welcome ability, and despite its reputation, DLC is what makes them affordable for customers and developers alike.