Is there a right way to handle DLC?

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It might have taken a few years, but we're at a stage now where barely any of us blinks at the concept of DLC. Even day one downloadable content has become the norm for any big franchise. There are reasons for this of course, but it's pretty much accepted by the public that DLC is something most game makers are going to put out. But not all of them.

Pokemon developer Game Freak made headlines this week, when two of its most senior staff said that they'd never put any of their game behind a paywall. This is unsurprising in some ways, because Pokemon games have never featured DLC, but considering how easy it would be to turn certain pokemon into paid for extra content, it's nice to hear in the contemporary gaming climate that one company won't make you feel like even though you've bought the game, you're missing out on the full story.

That's not to say that Game Freak doesn't offer extra content for loyal fans. If you go and watch a pokemon movie or go to special events, chances are you'll walk away with some sort of legendary pokemon and of course, you need to have friends to trade with in order to “catch 'em all,” but these types of additional content don't cost anything directly and if anything, they encourage interaction between gamers – paid for DLC just encourages you to get your wallet out.

Fortunately we no longer have to worry about a developer removing content from a game for DLC as it's now almost always part of the game's production schedule. Once the team is finished making the base game and it's heading towards release, they can get cracking on the first batch of DLC. That's somewhat understandable and it's been argued that without DLC, those same devs would be scratching their asses. I don't buy that completely, as I don't ever remember programmers and artists harking about the good-ol' days where they had three months off before a game's release, but ok, I'll run with that. But even with this somewhat plus point of DLC being a household feature of the gaming industry, it's also causing some horrible trends to appear.

One need only look at the online only requirements and long-term lack of mod-support for the latest Sim City as a perfect example. EA/Maxis only recently started talking about making mods a reality and even then, they'd be restricted and not allowed to step on the developer's toes. Because otherwise, how could it continue to sell DLC that could easily have been created by modders?

Want British buildings? Don't look for a mod, just give EA games $10 for it. The same goes for amusement park sets, airships and an electric car.

But PC gamers are at least veterans when it comes to DLC, we know that paying for a gun skin is ridiculous. DLC has been around in one form or another for nearly two decades at this point – though it used to be called a “patch” - but console gamers have only been experiencing real content updates since the original Xbox.

Even that though, used to be free.

Splinter Cell, Ninja Gaiden, they both had extra content, all of which didn't cost a thing. That's because the original idea of extra content, wasn't just about squeezing your fans for a few extra dollars, but keeping them playing the game long enough that when you released a new game or a sequel, gamers were practically guaranteed to buy that too.

This is a strategy still being employed by a few developers, a lot of them indies. Just look at Lone Survivor creator Jasper Byrne. He's released the Director's Cut of the pixellated horror title on PS3 and Vita at the end of last month. It's now set to hit the PC on October 31st, featuring featured new puzzles, an expanded story and a new ending – and he's giving it away free to anyone that already owns the original game on PC and Mac.

Endless Space developer Iceberg Interactive also deserves a pat on the back, as its soon set to release its fifth free DLC pack for Endless Space. That's not something the developer has to do at all, but it keeps people playing and it enamours them with the developer. Gamers are – for the most part – happy to pay for content, but it shows good faith in, and a respect of, your customer base when you treat them like fans and not like money sponges to be wrung out until they're husks.

So where do we stand going forward and what do we want to see emerge from the DLC trends? It's obviously not going away as a practice, but there are developers releasing it for free and seemingly remembering the days where retaining a player was more important than making a few more bucks. Maybe there's a way that we can do both though.

What about a HumbleBundle style pay-what-you want system for DLC? The success of those game collections suggests it could work. At the very least, don't restrict features or mods just so you can then sell the same sort of content to people. That's about the worst thing you could do.

At best, free DLC keeps gamers happy, but if a developer wants to pursue paid-for extra content, just make sure it's worth it.

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Comments

Yeah, there is a way to

Yeah, there is a way to handle DLC. 15 to 30 dollar expansions. You pay and download it. You get 60 armours and not one as an example. End of story. If a few guys in the office make a few things for the game and don't get it in time, release it free or prepare the expansion. If a random guy or gal creates something out of the design document, release it free. End of story. Any else is subject to: father, fuck off Im going to get you to pay a few dollars for that armour your child wants and watch out that he doesn't simply steal the money to get it. Meaning, you are insulting my intellect and the dealer itself deserves to be beheaded at once for such arrogance. That's what happened in old times when you presented certain business cards and deals, kings get insulted and cut those merchant emissaries heads off.

Gamers have weird entitlement

Gamers have weird entitlement issues - they think that just because they're "loyal" or "real gamers" they deserve everything for free in exactly the way they want it delivered to them - and if they don't get everything exactly right they have every right to never pay for anything because of some kind of unfounded moral obligation. People want expansive high-budget titles but they're not willing to support the people who make them because they >deserve it< for working so hard playing games all their lives. It's not feasible to sell a game that costs $200,000,000 to make for $40 a copy and give away a bunch of hefty post-release content for free but people expect it because it happened twenty years ago when development costs were not even a hundredth of what they are now and the content was simpler and quicker to produce at what was then the highest quality possible. times change, people don't.

Pardon your ignorance.. but

Pardon your ignorance.. but 200 millions for the production of a game seem a bit exaggerated. Not every games has the budget of GTA V and guess what? Rockstar made more than a billion in the first week alone. Where's your DLC to "save the production of the game" argument here? Don't try to act above the rest claiming everyone else doesn't pay their games, most people do. The only difference is that most people here are not as naive as you are with numbers. Also your argument of games from 20 years ago doesn't hold up as well. Nintendo made billions in the days selling games (most of them were terrible) 60$ each. (at least 110$ with inflation today) There was no piracy back then until very late in the generation, nothing to justify this hefty price. Nobody says they deserve things for free. But most knows how to count and are not so naive.

So you're saying games don't

So you're saying games don't have that high a budget... and also don't make that much money? I don't understand why you're saying I'm ignorant and naive with numbers, as they're not the focus of my argument at all - but I'll try to address you blow-by-blow without resorting to insults or straw men; "Where's your DLC to "save the production of the game" argument here?" - I did not have this argument, I noted that extra content costs money to produce as much as the rest of the gam and that it is naive to believe that other people's work should simply be given way because users feel entitled to it; "Nintendo made billions [...] There was no piracy to justify [their prices]" Nintendo barely made the equivalent of a billion US dollars a year - before operating costs - over the period of 1985-1995 and was hit hard by piracy. The was made through the manufacture and distribution of consoles, software and licensing - not from singular titles, whose cost to create and distribute at the time were minuscule in comparison to even what is considered a low budget title today. It is myth that there was no piracy in 'the old days' - in fact it was a much more professional, high-margin operation. As soon as game carts hit the market they were cloned and reproduced by the thousands and cost the industry considerably more money than it does now. Consoles did not have the strong anti-piracy protections they do now which made invisibly cloning and distributing copies undetectable. Power users would store games externally and load up rewritable EEPROM multi-carts from floppy disks. Again, I have no idea why this is entirely relevant to the point I'd outlined above; "Nobody says they deserve things for free." I beg to differ - the comments of this news post say otherwise. Nominal fees for content help educe the cost of more content and allow the production of more content. Despite what angst internet users may be spreading, it's not developers trying to nickle-and-dime their customers, it's trying to give them the most out of the game they've spent years working on for the lowest cost possible. The developers who are working on content post-release still need to be paid for their dedication. It's the same mentality I've encountered as a contract developer - if people want me to continue working on the product I've made for them after it's been deemed 'complete', I expect them to pay me for the extra work. They usually argue, wanting more form me for nothing - but if they're not paying me for my time there's other jobs I could be doing that do. If you really like a game and want to se more of it, showing your appreciation to the developers in exchange for more of it is the least you can do to make sure that happens. I do not believe I am being naive here, but I do ask you to critically re-awes your position before criticising that of others so callously.

money talks

Just don'T buy any DLC. This way you express your opinion in the best possible way. If you start getting all the DLC of games you enjoy, they will push the envelope even further in a few years. Look at the LotR trilogy, that was in 2001 and everybody enjoyed paying to see that (almost everyone). Now ten years later look at The Hobbit, a 350 pages story split into 3 ******* movies so the producers can cash in three times instead of one. This is where it's going for gaming as well so keep buying simple DLC and you'll just encourage the industry to go further down the hole. Just my two cents.

It's funny. People talk about

It's funny. People talk about getting nickeled and dimed. However, Hollywood will sell you a theatrical version of LOTR, but if you want the EE of it, it's extra. No one is demanding that the EE be included at no cost. Or a cable company, where the base package is $20 per month, but if you want the top goods, you're looking at $100 per month or more.

Obama Sucks

After the first horrible LOTR movie I didn't bother putting anymore money in to seeing the others, or that god awful Hobbit crap, I expressed my opinion by keeping my money =)

DLC is...

"Once the team is finished making the base game and it's heading towards release, they can get cracking on the first batch of DLC." - Unfortunately, this is not accurate. DLC is planned far in advance of the base game being completed. In fact, DLC is actually made up of elements that should have been included in the base game, but executives went through and asked, "What can we take out of the game and put into DLC packs?" Players used to purchase a finished product, but players now have segments of this game locked away in DLC that used to be included in the Full Game in the past. Look up an image on google for DLC/Monalisa...it 'paints a good picture' (sorry, pun). My point is, DLC is planned out while the game is being developed to include strategically selected elements that otherwise would be in the Full Game, just to milk more money from the consumers. Just because it has become 'accepted practice' by the game companies to cut out crucial or interesting elements of a game and sell them post-release for more money, does not mean any gamer should accept this practice. As is obvious when dealing with any business, SPEAK WITH YOUR WALLET. Do not buy these extra DLC packs, write/email the company (and their CEOs) and tell them you are not buying it due to the fact that it should have been in the game you purchased in the first place and not intentionally set aside just to swindle consumers and leech as much money from them as possible for their own profit. CAPTCHA: Start saving today (progressive commercial)

X is bang on for what he is

X is bang on for what he is saying, I look at halo 4 as a prime example. When that game was released there were so few multi-player maps and within 1 month the DLC was rolling out. It really felt like they withheld maps just so people would by DLC, all the while 343/Microsoft knowing that the games real meat & potatoes are in the multi-player (IE thats why people buy it.) EA is bad for this too.... I feel like EA is more interested in getting money for there product, not making a product and then selling it for money. There is a big difference with these two business philosophies. CAPTCHA : "Value performance" and then there was a pic a car as well..... some Japaneses POS....Value performance my ass!

Back in the days of the

Back in the days of the original GTA, DMA released two versions of the expansion pack - a smaller free one and a large commercial one. It was a good system, because people who only wanted to try out new cars and a new sandbox could have something for free, and it also acted as a marketing tool for the bigger commercial release. Obviously, companies can't provide massive DLC's for nothing, but showing your loyal customers that you appreciate them with the goal of showing them what else you can offer them is probably a good way to go about this sort of thing.

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