Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Thoughts on DLC

This meme appeared on my timelines again and so I thought I’d talk about DLCs for a bit.

DLC as Burgers
DLC as Burgers (Click to view full-size)

Spoiler: I largely disagree with the sentiment that the state of DLC in gaming is pretty bad. I’ve commented quite a few times on Reddit threads regarding this over the years, here’s my favorite one:

What if they didn’t bundle DLC separately and just straight-up sold the game for a higher price (and with a slightly later release date), would you prefer it? Or if the game was released with the same price but no additional DLC at all? Or the game is released with no DLC but six months later a new full version of the game is released with slightly more content that could have been released as DLC but instead you now have to buy a full game again?

Personally, I find that DLC is a good idea as it allows customers to pick and choose which content they want. I’m not going to bitch about it, I don’t have to buy the DLC if I don’t want to. In fact for longer games like RPGs I just wait for the GOTY to come out later.

Also, the phrase “cutting content out of the game” shows misunderstanding of how software development in general works. Like all other software development gigs, game development is largely constrained by schedules and real-world budget and resource constraints. And most of the time they’re going to fall short of those schedules and have to decide what features to cut so they can make it on time. Having the option of releasing them as DLC creates less pressure on the team and creates an opportunity for content that would otherwise have been cut or saved for a larger expansion disc to be made available. And please don’t take at face value the rantings that because 90% of a DLC’s content is already on the disc that it should have been included at release - you haven’t considered the other 90% yet.

One of the other complaints is that with DLC being available on launch or shortly thereafter, it doesn’t feel like one is getting the “complete” experience for a game purchased at full price. I finished the PS4 Spider-Man game recently and got the platinum even, and I’m super happy with the game, got what pretty much felt like a complete experience. At the time I played the game there were already two DLC packs available, one featuring the Black Cat and another featuring Tombstone. When I finished the game, I thought about buying the DLCs since I enjoyed the game so much, but in the end I decided to hold off since neither of those felt like they were necessary. Worrying that you’re missing out on the “complete experience” is just another form of FOMO.

I also absolutely respect the gaming companies’ right to determine their own business model and what price points and what DLCs they choose to offer. People complain about low-value DLC like additional weapons or map packs for $10 or such. The decision to release such DLC is a business decision, and like all business decisions, they can really only be influenced with your wallet. You don’t have to pay for poor value DLC! Companies can try to nickel and dime you for content, that’s their choice. It’s your choice to walk away.

On a side note, in my opinion the worst DLC offenders are multiplayer games (usually from companies like EA or Ubisoft). Maybe my opinion is helped by the fact that I’m largely a single-player gamer. There is very little problematic DLC with games like The Witcher 3 (I haven’t played either of the expansions!) or Persona 5 for example. Also, even before DLCs were a thing, I had already been playing Magic the Gathering. Hohoho TCGs are like the epitome of DLCs, you literally have to pay money just to complete a deck! (Luckily modern online CCGs often provide viable F2P options).

I kind of like the DLC model for games where companies constantly release DLC for a game even years after their release, it increases the gameplay lifetime. As long as you can enjoy the game without the DLC of course.

Some specific games with DLC that I have purchased:

  • Street Fighter V. Fighting games these days have a lot of DLC, usually either cosmetics (costumes) or new characters. For the PS4 version, I only used in-game cash to get new characters, but I also got the Steam version and just got a couple of Season passes there. I usually don’t bother with cosmetics, but I did get one costume DLC for SFV, and that’s because I thought it was absolutely criminal not to have Cody’s prison garb.
  • Stellaris DLC has been pretty good too. I recently bought my first DLC for Stellaris, and I find the additional content acceptable. Paradox is great at long term support for their strategy games. I look forward to occasionally buying a DLC pack once a year or so and playing the game for a month before abandoning it again lol.
  • Civilization. For Civ5 and Civ6, I usually bought any DLCs that introduced additional civs, as I like the variance in my games. This seems of questionable value since I’ll typically play each new Civ only once or twice, but the DLC packs are usually cheap enough for me not to worry about it.

In summary: I think DLC in general is a good if not positive trend for gaming, since it gives the consumer additional choices. It also keeps game prices comparatively low while facilitating additional income sources for the developers. And we as gamers always have the freedom not to indulge companies that release bad DLC.

Posted by under post at #Gaming
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