Downloadable Content: The Pros and Cons

Most gamers will remember the days when extra content that was released for a game was called an expansion pack. You would wait months or sometimes even years for a developer to release potentially hours worth of new gameplay. A lot of the time you would effectively buy a whole new game for less than twenty quid!

Sadly, this is no longer the case (in most situations anyway). In the past few years, developers have discovered the powers of digital distribution. Content can now be downloaded and installed within seconds and at the risk of sounding like a complete traditionalist, it’s almost too easy for developers to throw lacklustre content at gamers. This is the point where if this was a real conversation, you’d probably tell me to sod off back to the late 90’s and go play an Ensemble Games title, but hear me out!

Age Of Empires

Remember this?

It’s not hard to see that extra content is no longer something to look forward to that might be released if a game is particularly successful, it’s pretty much expected from all major release. To top it off, no one seems to have a problem with paying large amounts of cash for what is, in most cases, a lot less content than there should or used to be.

In my opinion, this is a step in the wrong direction. Don’t get me wrong, I love extra content; my gripe here is with developers that seem to have already planned the DLC before the actual game has been released.

It’s almost as if the developers purposely create a feature such as a game mode or an awesome weapon only to pull it out of the main game, which is not on. A recent example of this is Capcom’s ‘Street Fighter X Tekken’, where a whole twelve fighters that were included on the original disc can only be unlocked by downloading an upcoming content pack.

The speed at which DLC is released now is another thing I have a problem with. Paying around forty pounds for a game at launch and finding out that the first downloadable content pack is scheduled for release a week later, or even on the day of release, stinks of what I like to call ‘cash-cow syndrome’. Developers who do this aren’t fooling anyone, it’s obvious that these things were for all intents and purposes developed as part of the original game and they should be treated as such.

One good example of this is the recent release of EA/Dice’s Battlefield 3. Depending on what shop you pre-ordered the game from, you received different weapons, ammo etc. on release day. Not only did this give some players an advantage over others, but it forced consumers to buy from particular shops. What if someone has store credit that they were intending to use? Not only that, but it doesn’t exactly encourage the already sparse independent game shops to carry on trading.

So what’s the solution? How can we keep receiving new content for our favourite games, without feeling like we’re being totally ripped off? The answer is that developers need to take a leaf out of the books of some of the guys who are getting it right!

Take Valve for example. With recent stellar series’ such as Portal and Left 4 Dead, you’d think they’d try and cash in on their success, yet most of their downloadable content is totally free of charge. This isn’t just a set of horse armour either, it’s full packs of content such as online multiplayer maps, new single player sections and even in some cases, whole level editors. With this going on, it seems totally unjustifiable that at the other end of the spectrum, a single weapon can go for a couple of quid!

Horse Armour

This actually cost real money. It’s a good job Oblivion is so damn awesome!

However, this doesn’t mean to say that we should boycott downloadable content altogether until developers get their act together. The reason for this is that when all is said and done, DLC is still awesome!

Every gamer has at one point or another finished an amazing title and simply thought ‘I need more!’. And we can have more! It’s now simpler than ever to access loads of new missions, maps and all other manner of in game awesomeness directly from the comfort of our armchairs in seconds. A quick visit to the Xbox live marketplace and you’ve got it!

Another reason why DLC is so great is that sometimes a game is totally bettered from the extra content. For example, a completely unbalanced weapon could be replaced by a much fairer one and be embraced by the community. Plus, let’s not forget that title updates are pretty much downloadable content too!

All in all, downloadable content such as map packs, add-ons and the like should be embraced. This method of distribution has been around for years now and developers aren’t going to stop using it. Any true gamer would tell you that no matter how developers choose to push out new content, it can only be a good thing. The real issue here is not that developers are using the wrong method; it’s that they need to reassess why they’re doing it. Extra content is for the fans to be able to extend their favourite game and what they release should reflect this.

Copyright Chokepoint 2012

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2 thoughts on “Downloadable Content: The Pros and Cons

  1. I agree. I tend to wait for “Game Of The Year” editions to get DLC, as not all of it (Fallout 3’s “Operation Anchorage,” for instance), is worth it. I feel sometimes it’s best to wait and then get everything, and have the whole package cost less than the original game did.
    I was also really turned off when the much-hyped Catwoman content for Arkham City was only available as DLC. Was it really that to add these short missions as free DLC, instead of include them on the disc? And why was Harley Quinn’s Revenge, which cost $10 online,added to the GOTY edition, which sold for $10 less than the original game?
    Like I said, just seems better to wait.

    important to add the short missons

    • Some good points there Dave. The only problem with GOTY editions are that if you are like me and get so hyped about a game that you have to buy it straight away, it kind of seems counter-intuitive to buy the same game twice just to get the extra content. Maybe they could start making DLC boxsets for the people who have already bought the game at release and only need the bundled DLC.

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