There are a few aspects of video games which are almost unanimously despised: quicktime events, escort missions and underwater levels populate a large percentage of this group. However, in the more meta sense, these tend to overshadow the more pervasive, ever-present monster known as downloadable content.
Generally speaking, the assumption is that downloadable content (DLC) and day-one patches allow developers to ship unfinished games to consumers, withholding the rest of the content to sell later, rather than simply releasing the entire product at once.
Now, I’m not defending companies who cut up a game and sell important bits as DLC, but I would like to take a moment to show why I support the concept of DLC.
First off, a little history lesson:
The concept of DLC itself isn’t anything new. Games on the PC have been utilizing “DLC” for about a day longer than I can remember. Not only did you have regular patches that fixed various bugs for as long as the game was supported, but expansions were also commonplace.
Granted, these expansions always came as physical media, as most internet connections in those days were barely fast enough to watch the Numa Numa guy. But the concept is there.
Developers were creating extra content post-release, but, back then, you never saw such trivial packs as weapon skins or alternate outfits. No, when you bought an expansion, you knew you were guaranteed several hours of extra play, minimum.
Therein lies the ultimate appeal of DLC. While everyone loves to gripe about the increasing presence of meaningless weapon packs, expansion packs like those in the days of old are still being produced. Bioshock: Infinite‘s “Burial at Sea”, Dragon Age: Origins‘ “Awakening”, Mass Effect 3‘s “Citadel”, all are examples of quality expansions brought on after the fact.
So why does the term “DLC” conjure such spiteful feelings from gamers?
Downloadable content has been abused by some developers in order to not only make a quick buck, but, as mentioned before, to shave off essential parts of a game in order to sell them separately at some point down the line. Even worse, many companies will restrict access to this “extra” content by way of retailer exclusive pre-order bonuses.
An especially nefarious example of this practice is happening as we speak with the upcoming Batman Arkham Knight.
From the very first trailer, fans were treated to a swift kick to the Chumbawumbas in the form of a tacked-on ad promising the ability to play as Harley Quinn, but only if they pre-order. Even worse, more content has been announced since then.
The thing is, like the Catwoman DLC from Batman Arkham City, much of the this “exclusive” content appears to be integral to the story. This isn’t just some fancy paint job you can elect to buy–they are immediately, at launch, gating off whole sections of the main campaign to those who don’t buy the game from the right place.
Here’s the kicker: unless you buy multiple copies of the game, it’s impossible to get all the content at launch.
And I’d rather not even mention season passes. Basically a developer charges a specified sum to unlock all future DLC for a title. Sounds alright in theory, but most of these are only offered near launch time. Just like pre-order bonuses, this basically alienates an entire section of the fanbase, and that’s about as terrible as stealing forty cakes.
But you’ve probably heard this all before. Everyone is talking about it, after all. I set out to defend DLC, and by Yevon, I’m gonna do it.