To DLC or not to DLC

A trend that is gaining in popularity among video games developers is to release DLC (downloadable content) with their games. This has existed since the 90s, but until a few years ago, there wasn’t a lot of content aside from the odd pre-order bonus. Now they come in all shapes and forms; some are just pre-order bonuses, some are full fledged “missions” or new playable characters, some are free, others cost money, but they all have one thing in common; they add new content in your game. I have seen quite a few different takes on them on the web in the last few years, going from “total hate” to people actually enjoying them. Here is my take on DLC and what I think of them.

There are different DLC types: pre-orders, zero day DLC, and new content (missions, characters, items).

Lets start with pre-order bonuses which usually consist of a few items. In and of themselves, they aren’t bad considering that their impact on the game is usually minimal, but I do hate the habit of giving different “stores” different bonuses. It gives the false impression that you can choose where to buy your game according to what you want as a pre-order gift, while in reality most people only have access to a few of these stores and might get stuck with a pre-order they won’t use.

Next we have the zero day DLC, which most people seem to see as “cut content” from the game, you usually get one for “free” when purchasing a new “box”. Zero day DLC are interesting, mostly they were created to “stop” reselling boxed games, if you buy a played game you will need to buy the “zero day” DLC.

Finally, there is the new content DLC, which has basically replaced expansion packs now. (Except for The Sims, where they do all they can to get your money.  DLC AND expansion packs AND stuff packs. Argh. ~ed.)Unfortunately, unlike expansion pack, they usually lack narrative and some might feel “rushed” and just there for the sake of having a 1-2 hours new mission to do. Some of these DLC can be really well done adding depth to the game characters or integrating themselves into the narrative without problems. Others feel a lot more shallow, putting new gadgets directly into your character’s “inventory”, usually overpowered and cool looking. I don’t really mind the full fledged missions, but the items only DLC aren’t my cup of tea, I can live without them.

Overall, I don’t mind DLCs, although sometimes they really feel more like marketing gimmicks than actually real content. The items only things doesn’t really interest me, unless they have a “quest” attached, but I don’t avoid pre-ordering a game because they exist. I was also greatly surprised by some DLC, like the Lair of The Shadow Broker for Mass Effect 2. I actually find this DLC is superior to most of the main game and it integrates itself into the overarching plot of the games.

I do have two problems with them though, one of them is the pricing scheme. Is a 2 hours mission really worth $8 when the full 20 hour game was only $50? Are 3 new weapons really worth $2 when they are just new textures on existing models? The other problem that I have is accessibility. What happens when I want to re-install my game a few years down the line and the “online services” where I can access its DLC doesn’t exist anymore? I purchased them, I should be able to play them when I wish to do so…

I usually don’t buy DLC or at least not on “release day”, but I do hunt all the free ones. Also, I think that waiting for the package deal after 1 or 2 years is usually a much better idea.

One reply on “To DLC or not to DLC”

I can not swallow paying 50 or 60 bucks for new video games. If I did some sort of cost analysis of time spent playing versus cost, it would probably work out just fine, but I am physically unable to spend that much on a video game. So I get everything I play used or gifted, or checked out from the library (I just got Fallout: Vegas from them this week).

Anyway, not getting the zero day content was never a big deal for me, until I picked up Dragon Age about two weeks ago. I have totally gone bonkers for this game and am now pissed at myself that I didn’t get the special pre-order for DA:2, with the special downloadable content when the guy at the store tried to sell it to me.

Hopefully, the irritation will have faded by the time I can afford to get the game, 6-9 months after its released.

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