Good or Bad: DLC

Over the course of time, video games have changed, as all technology does as we progress. However, for those of us who have been playing video games for much of their lives, we’ve noticed some considerable changes in the way that games are made. With the new age of “next generation” consoles and games being released; including but not limited to the now constant connection to the Internet, new standards in high definition and the most recent introduction, or some may say RE-introduction, to movement controls. The question we have to ask though, is are these changes good ones, or bad?

Day One DLC for the Limited Edition of Just Cause 2.

With the “next generation” of systems released, including the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii, game players now have many options with their games, and much more accessibility with them as well. Built into all of these systems is a wireless receiver, meaning if they have a wireless Internet access point in their house, they can access the Internet, play games online and many other new features, straight from their video game system. Developers have been taking that feature to the next level however, in order to add more playability to their games, and that is in the form of downloadable content, or DLC.

DLC is typically extra content which players can purchase and download for their game, which then gets integrated into it and allows players to do more with their game. This can come in a few forms, including but not limited to extra characters, extra levels or some completely new mode. Many new games have taken advantage of this, and it has added a lot of excellent functionality to many games for people who have already completed it, or for people who are looking for a certain feature which wasn’t in the original game. But let’s get down to the analysis: is this for the better, or for the worse for video games today?

Depending on how developers use the idea of DLC, it can be a great idea. Let’s use the example of Burnout Paradise by Criterion Games. Burnout Paradise released in very early 2008, and over the course of that year, Criterion created at least three completely free DLC upgrades to the game, expanding the amount of things people could do in the game at no charge at all. This not only pushed sales of the game even further, but the game had a much longer shelf life than many other games, just because people could get more content for the game past what was on the original disc for free. Following this, they released at least five paid content releases, however each of these were either minor updates which added extra cars, or major updates which changed the game world entirely, and were completely worth the cost that they charged.

One of the cars from the Legendary Cars DLC pack of Burnout Paradise.

While that is a respectable way of dealing with your extra features, with some games it’s hard to say whether or not the content that’s released should be DLC or not. With most games, developers are given a strict release date after a certain amount of time, or they have to set one themselves in order to appease their publishers, and so they understand how much money it’s going to cost them to continue the production process. Due to this, developers are forced to choose what features they are going to have enough time to put into their finished game, or what they are going to have to cut. With the new addition of DLC, developers are now able to offer that content later on at an extra charge. The point being, what should have been in the game before is now being offered later, and at an additional price on top of the typically full priced game that you already have paid for.

The problem is, it’s impossible to tell what was originally scheduled to be in the full game, and what they were planning on releasing afterwards. One of the most questionable tactics that many developers have used is releasing what the video game press calls “day one DLC”. Day one DLC is a pack of downloadable content of some kind that is released on the same day that the game hits store shelves. One can only assume that this means that the developer may have wanted to release it with the full game, but in a time crunch, they were forced to cut it out. Because of that, they are releasing this content that should have been with the main game as a separate entity, and charging an extra price for it on top of everything else. If your game is good enough without it, then having this extra bit is acceptable, but for some games, the extra content seems like it should have been a part of the game to begin with, and would have made the game better overall.

An advertisement for one of the DLC packs from Borderlands.

As we never truly know if the DLC was planned for the original game or not, it’s always a stretch to blame developers on it. However, with some games, you can tell that they had plans to continue to support the game after release, but didn’t mean to add it to the original game, as it contains storyline content that was meant for after you had completed the game. As another example, we can look at Borderlands. For the next year following it’s release, Gearbox Software released four pieces of downloadable content which added many different sections, new quests, new weapons and more to the original game. Each of these were around $10, so technically you probably paid for the game one and two-thirds times if you bought all of them, but the game, and most of it’s DLC packs, got mostly good reviews, so in their case, people didn’t have an issue with these.

In this new age of being connected to the Internet at all times, developers can release any kinds of DLC they want. Some things are cosmetic, and just make a character or car look differently, while others are fully game modes or map packs for your existing game. Developers will more than likely only create more DLC for their games if the people who play them buy it, so if you don’t like a piece of DLC because you think that it’s not worth your money, then don’t buy it. It’s a slippery slope that leads to where DLC lies, and it can be great for some games, but developers have to use it properly for it to be what players want it to be.

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