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A Look at DLC

10/27/12 6:20pm
tl;dr

With all this talk about downloadable content lately, I thought I'd share a little bit of my own opinion on the matter.

 

Downloadable content has become a staple in modern gaming. Whether we love it or hate it, the fact of the matter is that DLC is here to stay. We've heard a lot of arguments against DLC, and believe me, I agree with a lot of them. But my exact stance is not one way or another. As with politics, I am a middle-of-the-roader with DLC. I can see the argument for both sides, and I formulate my opinions on the matter on a day-by-day (or rather content-by-content) basis. So what exactly do I believe about DLC?

OVERVIEW

In general, I am okay with DLC. I don't enjoy it all the time, but I do think that it's a necessity in video games today. Let's face it: the industry today is nowhere near as strong as it was way back when. Games nowadays are blockbusters if they sell a couple million copies. Black Ops, across 4 platforms, sold 25 million. Uncharted 3 on a single platform sold just over 3 million. Both are considered successful games. If the Black Ops numbers are averaged out among the four platforms (which I know is not the case, because it sold more on the 360 than on the PS3, PC, and Wii), that's 6.25 million units sold for each system, which is over twice as much as Uncharted on a single platform. Compare both of those figures to GoldenEye, which released on a single system (the N64). GoldenEye sold 8 million units in 1997, back when a dollar was worth...well, a dollar. If the same logic I applied to Call of Duty is applied to GoldenEye, then across 4 platforms, GoldenEye would have sold 32 million units at $60 a unit. That's $1,920,000,000, rounded down. Adjusted for inflation, that's $2,742,857,142.86.

Obviously, that's a very wild and exaggerated example, so take it with a grain of salt. My point is that the industry is not as strong as it was before; if you pay attention to video game news, you often hear about how sales figures for each month are lagging behind sales for the same month one year prior, which were also lagging behind sales for the same month the year before that, and so on and so forth. That is not an exaggeration. That is a fact. So with that in mind, knowing the direction the industry is heading, I understand the pressure of DLC. People gotta make money. They gotta feed their families. They have to exist. I get that. DLC is one of the ways that companies can make up for the weaker industry and the weaker economy, and if they’re gonna make a living like that, then alright. I’m not gonna be the guy to tell them “no, don’t make money.” So in a broad perspective, I am okay with DLC because it’s capitalism.

On-Disc

Call it blasphemy, but I’m…tolerable of on-disc DLC. However, it has to be done for the right reasons. I think it was Gears of War 3 that had a small uproar because of its on-disc DLC. The developers basically responded with “we used the disc as a medium of communication so the DLC would be made easily compatible.” And that’s perfectly fine by me. Think about it: if they’re gonna release the DLC anyways, then why not make everyone’s lives a bit easier and make sure the thing works without a patch when someone wants to play it? Besides, since there’s usually at least a month or two between the game going gold and the game being released, you know the developers are working on that DLC any chance they get. It just makes the whole DLC situation more convenient for everyone. Do I miss buying a game for $60 and having the entire game? You’re damn right I do. I miss those days a lot. But if DLC is here to stay, then we might as well make the process as painless as we possibly can.

Day-1

Day-1 DLC has always been a miss for me. Maybe someday, a developer will make some Day-1 DLC that I find decent, but for now, the entire idea is downright depressing. You see, DLC began as a way of expanding the possibilities of the game. Concepts that fans were intrigued by that didn’t make the final cut were completely viable as DLC, and that not only keeps the game going while making the developers some money, but it also gives the players an interesting tidbit that they could have missed out on entirely. With that in mind, Day-1 DLC is degradation to the purity of the concept. What began as a way to show players cool ideas has since become a way to grab your cash as quickly as possible. Despite what it may add to the experience, Day-1 DLC’s cons far outweigh the pros, and someone somewhere is getting royally gypped by these game companies. How is that even fair? Why are they’re not getting the full experience just because they didn’t preorder? Speaking of…

PREORDER INCENTIVE

I get that the developers want to boost preorder numbers by offering free/discounted content for early adopters, but what if someone doesn’t have the time to go preorder? What if someone won’t have the money to get the game until the day of release? And what about the people who didn’t hear about the game until it already came out? I know we are big on industry news and we stay as up-to-date on these things as we possibly can, but what about the average gamers, the casual occasionals, the neophytes, and the technologically inept/incapable? That’s where I totally agree with everyone about “buying a game and having the complete experience.” We shouldn’t punish people for not preordering by limiting their experience monetarily. We should usher them in regardless of purchasing status. At the most, they should be restricted via timed exclusivity; early adopters should have exclusive access to the DLC for the first few weeks and then everyone else should get the DLC for free at a later date. To top it all off, different stores have different preorder bonuses, so even if you preorder the game, you might not get the full content until later because all the people who preordered somewhere else have content that you don't have and vice versa. Day-1 DLC as a preorder bonus is flat-out dastardly, and whatever company pioneered the concept should be ashamed of itself.

SEASON PASSES

Allow me the controversy in saying I am fine with season passes. I don’t hate them. Hell, I don’t even dislike them. I do like them. I like them way more than buying costumes for five bucks a pop (CAPCOM). Maybe it’s the capitalist in me, or maybe it’s the progressive industrialist gamer in me, but either way, I see nothing wrong with season passes. Why, you ask? Well, season passes are a pretty alright deal. You pay a larger bulk of money all at once in order to get most or all future DLC for a game, but you still get a discount when compared to buying each piece of downloadable content individually. Besides, the people that season passes target are the hardcore fans, who are more likely to buy every DLC at the literal drop of a dime. So if you can spend a little more now to save a little more later, then why not pounce on the opportunity? For crying out loud, Valve’s Steam service does the same thing and everybody loves it.

CONCLUSION

For what it’s worth, the whole idea of downloadable content is tiring to me. I do yearn for the days where I could buy a game and know that I own 100% of the content. But it’s like I said, if DLC is here to stay, then we might as well make the best of the situation and get as much out of it as we can. Am I saying your complaints have no ground? Not at all; I agree with you guys on most of the points you make. But I don’t think downloadable content is completely terrible by any means. On the contrary, DLC is where some of the more interesting things in recent memory have happened. It provides an avenue for developers to address fan concerns, it allows companies to make a few extra dollars, and it extends the longevity of each title that uses it by adding new and (usually) interesting content. So long as it’s created competently, used properly, and priced fairly, then we should try and cut it some slack and enjoy it for what it is: another reason to play the games we love.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to post your comments below. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter and I almost always respond to my comments.

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