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Why I Don’t Pay for DLC

August 19, 2012

The following is derived from my IGN profile and was posted Friday, August 12, 2011 here.

As consoles give birth to new consoles, we get new technology, evolutions of games, and more beloved sequels that transcend the arcade days. We grow attached to these franchises, or “universes,”  and we see characters and development teams as more than just names but important entities in our virtual lives. Game developers have learned how to exploit this interest and build up the franchises even more and more through the release of downloadable content (DLC). It keeps us interested in that game — that universe — for a set amount of time.

But there are so many problems I have with this aside from the fact that, if I download more maps, more missions and what used to be Easter Eggs, I’m paying $30-60 more for something that should either already be included, included for free, or not exist at all. Here are my chief reasons for not buying DLC:

Snake, those years in between MGS3 and 4 didn’t treat you too kindly…

1. Franchises can be awesome and stay awesome forever if they are contained to a disc

Look at some previous successful franchises that made their mark prior to this generation of consoles. Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Tekken, anything with Mario, Advance Wars, Splinter Cell, Grand Theft Auto, etc. contain some of the best reviewed individual games since they began. Many of these franchises span more than two consoles.

The thing here is that games under these licenses can still be very good, but some of them are starting to fade due to competition from imitators, lack of content in between titles, and time. How many of you out there still play MGS4? Tekken 6? FFXIII? I’m sure there are fanboys (fanchicks too) out there who still do, and that’s great.

But what is the more casual gamer out there doing? They’re downloading new CoD maps or playing a new mission on Mass Effect. That’s their way, the current way, of preserving a lucrative franchise. These was glorious franchises are losing their luster, and it’s a shame because they used to have all the time in the world to put out some of the most kickass games ever created. I would love to see the next FFX or the next Gran Tusismo 3, and I would wait five years to know something that resonant could make its way to consoles and last a long, long time.

2. Games should be in the form of a “final product”

In other words, developers need to keep all their fans on the same page by giving equal opportunity everyone. The best way to do this is by releasing everything at once, bar none (MMO fans, I acknowledge you later in this point). It’s unfortunate how much DLC can take away the essence of what makes a game an enriching, enclosed experience. For anyone who reads books, think of it this way: Does your favorite author publish a book and then add another couple of chapters two months later?

“Shepard, there’s something I have to tell you…but it’s going to cost you $10.”

With single player games like Mass Effect, we’re given new storyline and missions that could somewhat alter our experience with the rest of the franchise. If we don’t pay $10 for that slice of story, we may miss something that is deemed integral to the universe. I love Mass Effect (I named my computer “Krios“) and believe I get my full $60 worth in one playthrough. I expect that same experience wrapped in the same amount of gaming time even if I have to wait four or five years to experience it again. But I’m not going to throw down $10 when I could be playing something like Torchlight or Shadow Complex — complete games &mdash.

** MMOs are a standout exception to this since they are “rolling titles” that build on top of each other. The process of starting with a base universe and gradually building it over time works very well and keeps the fans happy and in tune with how new content relates to the original content. Paying a monthly fee encourages consistently playing the game and finding new ways to enjoy what it is versus lazily shooting and strafing until the next map pack appears online.

Perhaps games will eventually implement a more gradual way of building content and universes so that the next installment of a franchise can come a lot later down the road. It’s not like WoW2 was scheduled for release three years or five years after its predecessor; this contrasts with a franchise such as Call of Duty, as users are paying for map packs when they know there’s less than a year between MW3 and Black Ops II.

3. You don’t always get what you pay for…

…which is occasionally true for full games (for example, Max Payne 2 was too short). We get sucked into a game and assume that the DLC is as legit as what came on the disc we spent $60 on. But that’s not always the case and I can assure you there’s great DLC out there that you can enjoy for many months, even years. The good news is that most reviewer sites are taking the time to play through DLC and indicate whether or not it is worth your time and mula.

4. We’re the ones who sell your titles

Like a moth to a flame…

Once we play a game we completely dig, we do a lot to keep that game’s momentum in the market moving forward and moving fast. It’s the market that drives DLC, game add-ons, and anything associated with that game such as merchandise, events like Quake Con and BlizzCon, and the expansion into sequels and universes. We, the consumers, get our friends hooked and jump on fan sites to spread the word and express how much we love the games and what developers can do to make us happier. And I have no doubt that the developers give back every day to their fans; I’ve seen it and it makes a great business-consumer relationship.

But even if there was no event — as is the case for BlizzCon 2012 — and even if there weren’t Facebook giveaways, we, the consumers, the fans, would still be the developers’ ace in the hole.

About this time last year, two chaps from Vancouver came to Valve’s studios in Bellevue, WA to hold up signs demanding the release of Half Life 3. They are a perfect example for what consumers will do to make waves for a new chapter in the franchise. All those lines out the Gamestop doors every November? Those are for the Halo’s and Uncharted’s out there — not for the latest DLC card or Crysis expansion pack. These are living examples that resonate with consumer society and will encourage them to pick up something tangible and immerse themselves in it. Developers don’t need DLC when they already have a massive following of people who sell the products themselves. It’s only right that we’re rewarded for fueling their business and not be exploited. Besides, most new releases run us $10+ more than what we paid last console generation.

So now that I’ve committed gaming heresy, what do you think about DLC? Do you purchase it for most of your favorite games, or are you a little more selective? Post your thoughts on the matter, as this is an intriguing topic often not discussed!

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5 Comments
  1. arcanooito permalink

    I, on principal, never purchase DLC. However, I also purchase older games on sale, which usually come bundled with their respective DLC. This is the only time I ever get it.

  2. Thanks for the comment arcanooito. For popular single player-based games, I think that’s a sound strategy. The value from something like that is very good. I probably would consider DLC more if there were fewer games to play. But we all know that’s never going to happen lol.

  3. sonofaddi permalink

    There are a few rare exceptions to DLC that I have really enjoyed in the past: Undead Redemption, Assassins Creed: DaVinci Disappearance, and most recently for Batman AC: Harvey Quinns Revenge. However these were all significant expansions to the campaign and not just another set of map packs. If the developers can keep finding ways to keep players engrained in the campaign (or multiplayer) even after it has been released I say bring it on. That being said I absolutely HATE being asked to purchase DLC while buying the original content.

  4. Digital purchasing looks to be the next frontier for gaming. That said, developers may consider releasing individual chapters in a sequential manner and not even a “full campaign.” Besides, if they charged $19.99 for Part 1 and ended up releasing five good chapters within 2-2.5 years, that would be a steady revenue stream.

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