John Sutija / Contributing Writer
While the letters DLC may stand for downloadable content, the concept itself most certainly stands for the monetization of the game industry, and more and more serves to prove that companies aren’t here for the users.
An idea like DLC made sense back in the 80s and 90s. The precursor to DLC, the Expansion Pack, existed to add content when floppies and CDs had limited storage space. After installing disc one, a second could be introduced which would fix issues inherent in the original, and add its own content to expand the original game. Being able to add campaigns and factions to Age of Empires through expansion packs was great, but in the modern era of digital gaming, we are not so limited by things like storage space. The digital games industry is a now on par with Hollywood, the content being produced should be fully developed and tested before being marketed – but it’s not. Honestly, putting out a game with serious glitches and then asking me if I want to spend more money so my rifle can have marijuana leaves painted on it is insulting.
In the modern gaming world, DLC is content that should have been part of a full game on release, but wasn’t, for one of a few reasons.
The first is pre-order bonuses. Hint: the bonus isn’t for you; it’s for whoever came up with this concept in the first place. Designed as a selling point of the game, pre-order bonus DLC is sold exclusively to players who spent the extra money so they didn’t have to wait in line to get the game. Such incentives also serve to subliminally convince the customer that more content is forthcoming. After all, if the developers were chomping at the bit so much that they were already producing addons, surely more is too come. Such a business model preys on consumers who confuse quantity with quality.
Alternatively, the content of the game simply isn’t pre-prepared and has yet to be developed. Possibly, the company ran over budget and needed to replenish funds, but money isn’t enough to save a project when the deadline is right around the corner, so they sell half a game and use the initial profit to finish development. Then, they release DLC packs to supply the rest of the game while making more money. It could possibly be the least evil kind of DLC, if they didn’t insist that you still pay the full price for the game and then continue to charge for the add-ons.
Sometimes, to keep the cash flowing, DLC is introduced to create a disparity among players. Things like weapon and armor packs in head-to-head combat games like Call of Duty are “Pay to Win” solutions to the game. Why spend time becoming better at a game when you can pay money to make the game easier? When one player artificially inflates their ability with this DLC it forces other players of equal skill to purchase the DLC so that they can continue to compete. When both players have weapon X, the game reveals Weapon Y, and so it goes with Z.
Finally, DLC can be released to reintroduce life into an older game, or to hype fans up about the next game in the series. I’m looking at you, Dark Souls II: Crown of the Ivory King, which released an expansion just before announcing the next game in the series. Releases like this make players reminisce about games they enjoyed, make them go back and play them again to see how the experience has changed, perhaps incite them to buy DLC they hadn’t previously purchased and ensure they buy the next installment.
Often times, especially in types 1 and 3, once the production of the game is completed, and all the planned content is program in, the company will cut parts of the game out. It’s still there; it’s just behind a paywall. Now you physically possess the content, and they still won’t let you play.
Beyond being an awful way of making money, DLC can be harmful to the game on a narrative level. A game that cuts up its story to create DLC for the sake of having it – because everyone has it now – is robbing itself of meaning and moral. DLC made in this fashion only devalues the game as a whole. The flip side of the coin is games where the game has been made, whole and intact, and then in order to meet the societal standard, a DLC addition to the narrative is created. It may seem to be a wholeheartedly good thing, adding onto a finished game, but when it is done the narrative is damaged by the addition. [MILD SPOILER for FALLOUT 3] What was the point of my sacrifice in the Jefferson Memorial if I wake up three weeks later in the Citadel? [END SPOILERS] The experience is devalued by this narrative treason.
Though, of course, companies don’t see this as devaluing a game, players who purchase DLC wind up spending twice if not three times as much on a game than they should. And after purchases are made, downloading begins. I have a sneaking suspicion game publishing companies have a deal with our ISPs – based on all the bloated downloads games force us to make during install.
The point is DLC is evil. It robs our wallets, our hearts and our watches.