Into the Fray: DLC and Me
It has been a long time since 3 little letters have been able to enrage a group of people, but DLC just has a way of making people angry. There are a lot of reasons that some gamers are against DLC… “It’s already on the disc”, “I already bought the game”, “Developers are just greedy.” I’m sure its easy to get caught up in this way of thinking but honestly, do you want to go back to the times when you took your game home, beat it and nothing ever changed and the journey was over? How many of you Mass Effect fans really want to throw Javik out the airlock? I know I don’t, he’s one of the best squadmates I’ve ever had. Before I get anywhere close to my own opinion, I am going to take a look at what you all have to say, how greedy developers truly are, and what the real pros and cons of DLC really are.
In a time where developers are having to close their doors at an alarming rate I find it comical that we as their fans have the audacity to kick them on their way to the ground. This is our industry, our past-time and we treat it as if we have no appreciation for it at times. Sure, sometimes what we get from the developer doesn’t meet the lofty goals and standards that the industry has set… but isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t it incredible that we can look down at games because of the incredibly high bar that’s been set by the juggernauts of the current generation.
The company who has probably received the most attention to their DLC recently is Bioware and more specifically Mass Effect 3. The game released with one of the most hated new gaming trends, day one DLC. Fans were outraged, even YouTube fan favorite Francis took to the web to express his extreme displeasure.
Since this time I think it’s fair to say that Bioware has gone above and beyond for its fans. They’ve provided a new expanded ending DLC and multiplayer packs which have more than doubled the number of characters and weapons in the game as well as added new objectives to the modes, and its all been free. Is it possible that all of this was done because of the backlash over the ending of the single player mode? Possibly, but all of the content that has been provided at absolutely no cost is not something someone can look at and ignore
Call of Duty is a series that takes an all too different approach to their multiplayer content. Iin the fact that they rarely… if ever, give anything away for free. Map packs, weapon packs, anything that you can really think of is going to cost you something to unlock the content. While they have started providing more discounted and bundled DLC, it still comes with a price tag.
The one plus to the Call of Duty side of things is the Elite service that they provide, allowing players to pay a pre-determined subscription fee and gain access to all of the content that is released in the future. This is an interesting way to go about distributing content and the industry has even seen a couple of copy cat projects, such as Rockstar’s Max Payne 3. Judging based off of the stellar sales of some of the DLC that’s produced by AAA developers, fans are certainly receptive to additional content and are also more than willing to open up their wallets to have it.
When thinking about the overall impact of DLC one needs to look no further than the MMO genre. Without the help of expansion packs, DLC and the online marketplaces these games would not hold the place that the do in the gaming world. World of Warcraft is clearly the world’s most famous and popular MMO, the game released in 2004, and since that time developer Blizzard has added an enormous amount of content to its players via expansion packs.
Without this content there is no possible way that Blizzard would have carried it’s millions of subscribers and loyal fans. While it is true that PC gamers have been seeing content being delivered in this way for a while now, console gamers are used to the complete package feeling that one gets by conquering one of their favorite titles. As a console gaming generation, the complaining and misunderstanding that we’re experiencing may very well just be growing pains. When we think of DLC we usually think of an overpriced map pack, a worthless weapon or costume pack but at the core of it all DLC is so much more. Game patches are an incredible innovation that we have seen in the download generation. How often today do we take for granted that a buggy game we bought will eventually be patched and become playable if we are patient enough. I recall a time where if you went to the store and paid for that buggy game you had two options, do your best to play around them, or throw it on the shelf and complain to your friends about how the game you just got is a piece of garbage.
Whether or not you agree with the positive outlook that I have displayed in regards to DLC, the numbers speak for themselves. DLC is purchased as if its going out of style, gamers are not only willing but excited to pay extra money in order to experience new content for their favorite games. Whether you only dabble in the free DLC that comes with games like Mass Effect’s multiplayer or the paid DLC flow that you get from the Call of Duty games the content is something you never would have played if this phenomenon was not prevalent. While gamers are impacted by the economic situation that a lot of us face right now, I think of a very real, very negative impact that DLC can have on gamers… the ones left out in the cold.
Even though we have discussed a lot of positive impacts that DLC has had on the gaming world, there is a very real downfall to the medium itself. For a long time I did not have internet access, every time the newest DLC would release for my favorite games or the newest roster updates would go live for one of my sports games I would feel completely left out and cheated. All I wanted to be able to do was go down to my local Game Stop and purchase the content on a disc to be loaded onto my console, sadly as we all know this was not the way things were distributed and I was often left out in the cold. While I know this content is rarely something someone could view as a requirement to enjoy any particular game, if I know that there is something more to be experienced I am naturally going to want to play it. Moving into the next generation of gaming I think it is fair to say that the downloadable format is becoming more and more relevant. Console owners with online access don’t even have to leave their own home to get a copy of the latest releases and this efficient and cost saving delivery method will only become bigger from here.