Games, how they work, and how they should work

The DLC debate

Welcome back! Long time no see, eh? Before we jump in let’s catch up. College is over, I’m free to relax, blog a little and generally get ready for the mammoth that is university, which I will defeat starting in September. Anyway, in the mean time, I can write more posts on this blog, and I’ve even written a guest piece for the blog and plan to do a few more. It’s a site that reviews games that you can buy on a budget. Right, now let’s get to the juicy topic of this week’s blog.


I recently had a discussion with a friend regarding the Wii motion plus device. My friend, who in the interest of anonymity we shall not call Leah but instead Scott, was complaining that something like that should either have been part of the original hardware or not used at all. Scott clearly doesn’t understand economic rivalry. Basically, in the conversation, I explained that Nintendo could have easily released the hardware built in, but it would have delayed the release date and that would have had disastrous consequences on sales. Then Scott mentioned that xbox have free updates and that lead to DLC, and how DLC is basically the same thing as hardware add-ons. This got me thinking. Why are so many people adverse to paying for extras, and why do many companies still not take the time and effort to fix bugs regularly?

Bug fixes are easy, so let’s start with those. Developers don’t generally get paid to make good games, they get paid to make games that look good, so that they sell a lot of units. Publishers just suck as much money out of a game as possible then make the developer make a sequel. Keeping a game running is expensive, but the long-term profit is small, so publishers have resorted to cut-and-run tactics. The industry is suffering artistically because of it, but that’s for another blog post. The other problem is logistical. If you’ve got the same game spanning a number of platforms, you want to keep them all consistent, but consoles are harder to apply game updates to because most of the game data is on a disc.

There are several mentalities regarding DLC. I’m just going to say DLC, but the same applies to hardware and micro-transaction. First off, we have the ‘against’ argument, or what I like to call the ‘cheapskate argument’. It is similar to Scott’s argument, and usually goes along the lines of “I paid for the game, so why should I have to pay more for all this stuff?” Next, we have what I call the ‘money-bags argument’ which is simply “you don’t HAVE to buy the stuff, so what harm is it doing?” Finally, there is the developer/publisher view. Creating DLC means you can squeeze even more money from the game, which pays for those pesky updates, thus keeping players around for longer and get even more sales! Cheapskates, you’re out of luck I’m afraid. DLC is here to stay, and all the whining in the world won’t change that. Still, do comment below on your thoughts about DLC.

As a last note, since writing this, I noticed Extra Credits’ new video. I covers micro-transactions in games and, as always, it’s good stuff. Check it out.

Aah, it’s good to be back! Come back soon for the next one, and don’t forget to check out!


Comments on: "The DLC debate" (6)

  1. Hey, Your review over on my blog’s got 10 hits today. For my blog, that’s a pretty damn good number for one piece in one day!

  2. You don’t really touch on the subject as in-depth as I’d like, but I get your general idea. I would however argue that a lot of people will simply not buy DLC unless it appeals to them. I fit within this category, I won’t buy every map pack or whatever just to have it; I generally buy if I: a) Have the time to explore playing with the new content b) Have the money easily available and c) Actually like the game.

    I do also have a stance against games that are released, with DLC already on the disk. This is the main problem with DLC behind it right now in my opinion. It’s not content created afterwards to prolong the life of a game any more, it’s content that’s being made during development time (a lot of which probably could be included in the game) and then being released later.

    From a publisher/developer and the time/money on updating a game, it generally will be less profitable to fix games for prolonged periods of time after the game is updated. However Valve seem to have hit the spot perfectly with what it’s done with TF2. Support it for 4 years, add a microtransaction system and a large item catalogue; then make it free to play. It instantly boosts numbers of player, which then boosts the amount of people who want “premium” accounts, which then boosts the sales in the in-game store. If more games could work with a model like this I think there would be a lot more variety in the market; as developers would be fighting to keep their game popular as well as developing the new one.

    • I try not to draw out these posts. I may be wrong, but my target audience aren’t really interested in a looong detailed analysis of the finer details of game design and publishing. I just like to get people thinking.

      I do agree with you about on-disc DLC and Valve’s handling of maintenance. Locking content off away from the player is just absurd. If you want to privilege people who order, give them a discount, or make the content free to everyone after a certain amount of time, don’t charge them more money.

      Hopefully, games designers will follow Valve’s lead where applicable and publishers will appreciate that it works and let them do it. It’s a long shot though.

  3. Hey, I agree with most of your points, just wanted to add a few things.
    I’m mostly for DLc – like you say, if you don’t want, you don’t NEED to buy it to enjoy the game as is. The only problems occur if, like the commenter above says, they withold maps and levels from the original game thinking ‘oh, we’ll release it later’. That’s just cash-grabbing.

    A niggly thing that bothers me about it is that if you’ve completed a game’s achievements up to 1000, and then DLC is released, you have that ‘completion’ taken away from you – which does kind of feel like ‘HEY, you need to buy the extra stuff now!’ DLC and original content should be separated as far as achievements on Xbox, I think.

    Also, it bugs me when a slap-dash sequal is released, which is only a few hours long and yet you’re expected to pay the full £40 or whatever – when really, this sequel could have done with being DLC. That’s something I wish a lot more developers and publishers would consider. It’s cheaper for everyone, that way.

  4. My main problem with DLC is that it usually never finds its way to disc format. What if someone doesn’t want to sign up to an online service they’ll only use to get DLC for a couple of games? Especially for XBOX Live, which you have to pay for. Fallout 3 & Dragon Age: Origins released their DLC on disc and that DLC substantially added to the experience, so why can’t Mass Effect etc.?

    • I was going to add that as well, but didn’t want to be mocked for not being able to afford Xbox Live. But you’re right – I can’t run Steam games on my computer because of cost issues, and I can’t get Xbox Live – so how are those people expected to access DLC that doesn’t exist on disc form?
      It’s a pain. Also, I don’t like that I’m forced to buy Dragon Age: Origins when I already have the original just to get the DLC – which is effectively the only way I can access it without forking out £40 a year for a service I’d rarely use. Same goes for the GotY edition of Fallout 3.
      I still don’t think it’s an issue with DLC itself – just something about distribution that needs to be looked into to not cut off young adults and other gamers on a budget.

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