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Weighing it Up: Justifying the Purchases of DLC

Weighing it Up: Justifying the Purchases of DLC

Oct 17, 2013

Downloadable content seems to have polarized gamers’ opinions over the years. The price tags for the additional gaming content is constantly being weighed up as to whether paying the extra cash justifies what the content has to offer. While there has been some controversies surrounding several DLC releases, it has unarguabley changed the gaming scene. Nowadays, it would certainly go against the grain for popular, big budget console titles to not produce some form of paid DLC.

Multiplayer maps are one of the safest options for additional content for DLC, as it livens up the multiplayer scene by refreshing some of the map choices and rotations available. It is also a great way to bring back popular old maps from previous games, and maybe update it with fancy new graphics that the current iteration of the game can provide. However, the old needs to be balanced with the new, or gamers may feel a bit short changed. It’s always fun to see your favourite maps remade to current gen standards, but if developers are not pushing for “brand new” content, it may discourage gamers to purchase the DLC, because they do not have anything new to play or explore. Although map packs are not essential, online multiplayer has a tendency to thin out as more maps are released. The matchmaking is then split between all the core content and DLC, and those without it. Over time, if you haven’t purchased the DLC, it could lead to delays in matchmaking because the numbers are greatly reduced on the core maps, which may either prompt you to purchase the DLC, or stop playing the game.

In single player games, purchasable downloadable content focuses on new fun game modes and missions moreso, or expanding on the game’s narrative. Furthermore, many things included in the DLC packages may add enjoyable elements to a game that initially felt underwhelming. A good example of this would be Bioshock 2’s DLC, Minerva’s Den. The narrative feel of the main Bioshock 2 game felt somewhat lackluster in comparison to the first Bioshock game, but Minerva’s Den manages to encapsulate elements of the strong narrative that defined the original.

Minerva's Den is DLC available for Bioshock 2

Less is more: Minerva’s Den encapsulates many story elements that define its original, that Bioshock 2 sometimes fell short on.


Although only several hours long, Minerva’s Den seems to do more in that time to connect with its audience than the main story-line of Bioshock 2. When it comes to Game of the Year editions, having excellent DLC to add to the core content could be a key factor in picking up purchases long after the game has been released.

Download content has had independent success stories in the past. GTA IV’s: The Ballad of Gay Tony, is highly regarded as one of the finest pieces of download content of any game. Although Grand Theft Auto IV is considered a great game, many argue that the DLC is even greater than the main part of the game.


GTA IV’s: The Ballad of Gay Tony is highly regarded as the best DLC released to date.

Bioshock Infinite’s new DLC, Burial at Sea, will be the second DLC released since the game launched in March, but it will be the first DLC that develops the narrative of the Bioshock universe. Burial at Sea aims to take all the great developments made in Bioshock Infinite, but instead of returning to Columbia, it dives down deep into the heart of Rapture, before the events of the civil war (several years before Bioshock’s main story takes place ). One important thing, however, that gamers have come to learn and appreciate from Irrational Games is that content will not be released unless it is truly ready. In an industry where specific release dates are planned years in advance, Irrational Games will delay its content if it needs the extra time. Although this can be frustrating for gamers, at least they know that the additional time will help to make the best game possible, without the need of rushing it out to meet a publisher’s launch date.

In contrast, many titles seem to have additional DLC that releases on the same day as the actual game. It’s fair to say that launch day DLC has received its fair share of negative comments from the gaming community. Developers walk a very delicate ground when they announce launch day DLC, as gamers often like to ask :”Why do we need to spend more when they release on the same day?”. Although the launch day DLC may well have been created from a separate team, in a different development cycle and budget, it still feels peculiar buying additional content for a game on the same day that the main component of the game is released. The debate, however, will surely continue until the end of days.

While the diagram below offers some explanation to development cycles in the gaming industry (with this particular example looking at the Mass Effect 3 Day 1 DLC release), many gamers are still angry about the extra cost for “optional” content. Regardless of the development process, gamers may still feel annoyed that day one DLC is not included as part of the main purchase.

Gaming Development cycle including DLC

Although this may not be a concrete example for all development teams, it does demonstrate how rough time-line impacts different staff members.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the years as digital purchasing becomes more relevant. If the main game has already been written to disc, it is unfeasible and inefficient to recall the discs just to add the extra data. However, with digital purchases, it could be repackaged to include the addition data. Launch day DLC does generate extra revenue, so it remains in developers’ interests to produce the content, despite many negative comments it receives from other areas.

Something else that has been slowly creeping in over the last few years is the DLC “Season Pass”. This allows gamers to pay an upfront fee for all future DLC at a reduced cost than if they were purchased individually over the game’s lifetime. Should you continue to play a game when the new DLC is released, it will certainly be a worthwhile investment. However, if you lose interest, it feels like wasted money. Season passes feel like a bit of a gamble; you do not know whether you’ll still be playing the game months down the line, or even if you will like the DLC that you would be receiving. Regardless, it is a good way for developers to cash in on content that is still in the works, while also having the potential to be cheaper in the long-run for gamers if they continue playing the game. With season passes, however, the expectation to deliver high quality content is even greater than that of regular DLC. If developers fail to deliver, they may develop a harmful reputation from gamers that could impact their franchises.


Last of Us Season Pass DLC package

Season passes have many benefits for gamers in the long run. DLC comes at an overall discount, and provides additional in-game perks.

For the most part, DLC is a great way for gamers to further their enjoyment of their favourite games and titles. However, DLC has certainly changed over the years and it must be handled delicately. Should DLC contain content cut from the main game, just as a means to make extra cash, this could raise issues in the industry that could really hurt all parties involved. However, if done correctly, it is a great way to extend the shelf-life of a developer’s product.

Sam Barwick is a writer at GamingIQ, follow him on Twitter to earn bonus points, and make sure to read his other articles here.
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