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DLC – A Love/Hate Relationship |

This was an article I had actually wanted to write last week, but never really got to it. I finally decided to get it up after looking through some of my old comments yesterday. Which comment was I referring to? You can read that here. This is basically running off of what Gary had posted way back then, and since we’re nearly 4 years into the PS3’s life, I’m going to go on with more up-to-date impressions.

The generations of gaming before the last era was an industry in it’s infancy. Whatever games came out, you were stuck with the same game through it’s entire life. If there was something wrong with the game, there was no way of fixing it, and thus if it’s broken, it’s broken unless the manufacturer had a deal to trade a game in for a fixed version. It was a very inconvenient time, but it also gave a lot of developers the need to make sure their games would work properly before they hit store shelves since, if anything, a game release was quite a risk back then (the market had not matured like it has today, and gaming was considered nerdy or geeky and far from mainstream).

That started to change in the PS2/XBox era, where patching of games started to occur on both consoles over an internet connection. This started to pave the way for the future and blurred the lines between console and PC gaming. This was still restricted to online-capable games, though, but Microsoft pioneered that front by creating a proprietary, universal network in Live. If memory serves me right, Live had DLC available for Ninja Gaiden, and with an internal HDD (the PS2 had one, but failed miserably), the DLC era pretty much began with that (I’m not 100% on this, but did SOCOM 2 have maps or something you could download on PS2?).

This brings us to the current generation of software. At this point in time, we’ve got unlimited potential when it comes down to DLC. We’ve seen numerous packs, patches, maps, modes, etc. With this new, massive market, lots of things have been tried. The 360, of course, hit the shelves first and introduced the Live Arcade, which had tons of smaller, downloadable titles at an inexpensive price. This begins my discussion on the positives (Love) of DLC.

Being able to reach a broad audience by making titles cheap to download, even if they’re mini-games, is a huge positive for gamers, and with Live Arcade, and soon to follow, Sony’s PlayStation Network and Wii’s Shop Channel, we’ve been able to get our mitts on a large assortment of different titles that we could enjoy over the years. Sony has really stepped up since the beginning of the PS3 with innovative games like flOw and Flower, as well as the artful collection of PixelJunk games. Never did we see any variety in such games before.

What was really nice was to be able to download classic games from the Store and play them without the need for backwards compatibility. Microsoft still has an edge on this front since they have more of the popular games, as well as theirs being a generation ahead since most of theirs are from the original XBox. I’d love to see Sony release more PSOne Classics and start an introduction of downloadable PS2 titles as well. If Microsoft could do it with XBox titles, Sony should be able to figure out a way for PS2 titles as well (though, this would require Emotion Engine software emulation).

With the floodgates open for online gameplay, and the ability to download to the console, it gave developers the opportunity to send patches for games over the network and essentially fix them on the spot, removing annoying bugs, changeing some features, etc. This was something the PC gaming industry has been able to do since, basically, it’s inception. This was a very welcome change and it’s a benefit to us all that these types of changes did occur.

As far as add-ons go, which is what DLC usually refers to, there is so much variety out there available to add on to games we already own to squeeze as much gameplay out of them as possible. The best example of add-on content? EA had mostly released free content for the earlier part of Burnout Paradise’s life, adding new cars, modes and locations free of charge. To this day, that’s still the best example of fan service in terms of DLC. Not too many games come close, and that’s where some of the problems begin to emerge.

The negatives (Hate) of DLC can be seen pretty much anywhere you look. Remember Oblivion’s infamous Horse Armor? How much was it when it released, 400 MS points? Keep in mind, this was way at the beginning of this generation, and we should have known then that this would be a recurring issue as time went on. There are so many items in games today that should, otherwise, be free. LittleBigPlanet is full of stickers and costumes that don’t add anything to the gameplay, yet, they charge comparatively astronomical prices for those packs. In reality, the only ones that should cost anything would be the Pirates of the Caribbean and Metal Gear Solid level packs (and maybe object packs).

The biggest culprit of rip-offs is, by far, PlayStation Home. Pretty much everything in there should be free. You can’t use anything in any other games, and a lot of it you won’t even use after you purchase it (decorations?). As far as this goes, the only time I feel they should be able to charge for anything is if they’re doing a fundraiser or benefit for a charity or something. Other than that? Stop nickel and diming us every chance you get. I’ll admit I wasted a few dollars on stuff in there, and I regret it, too.

This brings me to another point, working backwards here. Patches. It seems that nowadays, a lot of publishers will allow games to be released with some faulty code, having a “we’ll fix it later” attitude. Has anyone else noticed the number of games released that have patches to download on day one? It’s almost as if they’re inadequately using their QA teams and release games, even those with some serious bugs. The developers and publishers alike seem to take advantage of the patching/update system in a way they shouldn’t have/be able to. Some older games seem to be more playable than a lot of the newer games that come out that, undoubtedly, need a patch. Sure, you could blame development costs, time restraints, etc, but even those go to show that getting the game out there and making money is more important than the game itself.

While we’re on patches, I’m also going to point something else out here. Before the days of DLC, many PC games released patches every now and then. A lot of these patches also came with a new map or two for online play (Battlefield 1942 and the old Call of Duty titles are very good examples). Moreover, these updates were free of charge, new maps, modes and all. I’m not sure iof the PC market is still like that, but in the console world, we’re charged for all that new stuff. It’s like game developers are giving us the middle finger…

In retrospect, it seems as if DLC is ruining the gaming industry, as it’s showing how money hungry game publishers/developers are. Sure, it’s always the goal to make money, but they’re doing it at the expense of the gamers. If they really want to do fans a service, they should release most content free of charge like they used to on the PC. They should make older, classic games that you can no longer find available for download, they should release games that work the first time. We shouldn’t have to deal with a lot of this, yet, most of us do, and we still buy up all this DLC, and as long as that happens, nothing will change. That’s how I see it.

  • “In retrospect, it seems as if DLC is ruining the gaming industry”

    Couldn’t disagree more, and you’re confusing two entirely different issues. We’re dealing with patches/game updates, and add-on content. It’s not all the same thing.

    I think the patches/game updates are great. Games are 100x more complicated than they were back on the NES. Do some games get put out with small problems? Yes, but if they’re fixed on day one, or even IMPROVED days or weeks later, then that’s a great thing.

    As for add-on content, no one is forcing you to buy any of it. I’ve had my PS3 for three years, and I’ve never bought add-on content. The first thing I might jump on would be new maps for MW2, but gamers will only buy add-on content if they WANT to. If they think it’s a good price for what they’re getting, they’ll buy it. As long as devs don’t leave out major aspects of a game just to gouge us later, then add-on content is nothing but a bonus (and if devs do that, there will be major backlash, so it’s not in their best interest).

    So I have no clue what your complaint is. Games are constantly made better and error free, and the life of those games is extended by DLC. Oh the horror.

  • JimmyMagnum

    the point was, a lot of it is overcharged, especially for the stuff that’s supposed to be free (maps, etc.) DLC can be counted as both add-ons and patches, since both technically add to the games (in ways of actual new content, edited content, or just fixes, etc). And yes, we have a choice in buying it, and if people keep buying it all up, then they’re just going to keep charging for it, when the stuff used to have been free (especially content that was already on the game disc, Resident Evil 5 anyone?)

    as far as patches go, I’m still thinking they’re getting lazy on that aspect since they obviously know there are some issues with a game and let them get released anyway, and figured “we’ll deal with it later.” That’s what happened with GTA4. The online portion did not work at all for like 2 weeks because they failed to do adequate testing on the game before it hit store shelves

    Also, “it seems” doesn’t mean “it is”. I agree that DLC is great, but the way some are implementing it isn’t so great

  • Heinous

    I have to agree that download content has it’s good and bad points. I hardly ever purchase any dl content because, like you say, it’s cost is way beyond the benifit of owning it. I am suprised that a company hasn’t started giving content away to persuade gamers to be loyal.

  • EdEN

    DLC done right (Fallout 3, MM 9 and MM10, Borderlands, GTA IV, Prince of Persia, RE 5, Valkyria Chroniclesto name a few) can give you more of the same great experience had with the main game or expand and alter upon it. Bad DLC (skin packs, Home, unlock keys for content already in the game) gives good DLC a bad rep and thus why many “hate it”.

    I love DLC when done right because it adds more to a game I enjoy playing or makes me go back for another round.

  • Darrin

    Usually, what’s overpriced and worthless to one person is a great deal to someone else.

    If you don’t like it, don’t buy it, and don’t get upset about it. Companies should be aggressive about finding new ways to make money.

    The big negatives to me are: buggy games, excessive/annoying patches, and excessive multiplayer DLC that fragments the multiplayer community.

    Funny you mention Battlefield PC… With Battlefield 2 on PC, I thought the patches were excessively frequent and the game was still buggy. The patches always introduced new bugs for every bug that was fixed.. Also, that game was very aggressive about having lots of expensive, frequent add-ons that fragmented the multiplayer community.

    And many games do give free new features via downloadable updates (Burnout comes to mind)

  • “the point was, a lot of it is overcharged, especially for the stuff that’s supposed to be free (maps, etc.)”

    -It’s only “overcharged” if you don’t value it enough to pay that. It’s all supply and demand. If game makers don’t include enough in the original $60 game, then people won’t buy it. If the add-on content is too expensive, people won’t buy it. Not sure how any of the stuff is supposed to be “free.” Just because a game only comes with 8 maps, and they release more after the fact…you think that’s supposed to be free? You thought the original 8 maps was good enough to warrant a purchase.

    “they obviously know there are some issues with a game and let them get released anyway”

    -You’re ignoring the timeline of a development cycle. The games code has to go final weeks before it comes out, so I think it a GOOD thing that the devs continue to iron things out, so that it’s an even better product on day 1 with a patch. They’re hardly being lazy. Games with a lot of problems early on get bad press, and that can turn buyers away.

    So if you think the add-on content is worth it, buy it. If not, don’t buy it. I like what we have know better than what we had 10 years ago.

  • You should see the guy in WKC that has spent over $100 buying DLC for his Georama ( town ). The prices range from $.99 to $5.99 too.

    If it’s available, ppl are going to buy it if they want it and can afford it.

  • JimmyMagnum

    heinous and eden understand what I was getting at lol.

    @Darrin: I never really played Battlefield 2, I was more referring to Battlefield 1942

    nathan118: You’re ignoring the timeline of a development cycle. The games code has to go final weeks before it comes out, so I think it a GOOD thing that the devs continue to iron things out, so that it’s an even better product on day 1 with a patch. They’re hardly being lazy. Games with a lot of problems early on get bad press, and that can turn buyers away.

    I like being able to get patches and all, but I’m referring to the ones that seemingly have 3 patches in one week and still come out buggy. Even when a game goes gold, they should still have the time to iron out bugs before it does go gold as a final reassurace. Of course, this would be a conflict between developer and publisher, because the publishers expect deadlines, so they should get most of the blame on that one, but still, the QA teams don’t seem to be as thorough as they used to :-/

    nathan118: I like what we have know better than what we had 10 years ago.

    me too, but that doesn’t distract from the fact that some developers take advantage of these open doors in a way that directly affects gamers in a more negative manner (like the examples EdEN pointed out)

    And I totally forgot to mention a couple great positives that I wanted to include. Demos and Betas. Before, we had to wait on demos in disc form, if we got any at all (usually required membership with the PlayStation Underground). Demos came in the mail, whereas beta materials came via UPS. This was a hassle since you never knew when the disc would come in (they didn’t provide tracking numbers) and they usually left the materials out in plain site if you weren’t home. With us being able to download those types of content directly to the HDD, without wait times and possible damaged discs, we can enjoy these opportunities faster and more efficiently. If anything, this is probably one of the bigger positives of the whole scene.

  • I like the DLC. The issue seems to be pricing.
    Horse armour was just the developer asking you you to bend over. but asking for 5.99 for two new maps and 5 skins for the new UC2 DLC seems about right. I like the game I just want more variety.
    I hope that Naughty Dog bring out more Map packs. Buying skins with in game money might be great as well.
    I think that the cost of developing a game engine needs to be amortized over a longer period of time now by developers. Adding a few more missions into an already built engine means more money for the developers. I’d love a Sully adventure as DLC. Priced at the rate that the Quest for Booty DLC would be great. Add in a few more multiplayer maps and skins and it would be great.
    DLC is the future. It is totally in the relm of possibility that a game will come out where you buy just the basic engine and level packs are bought as you move along. Peggle, Jumpman, Mario esque type game come to mind,

  • elquinto

    Halo 3’s map packs would cost me $30+, but I’d get $6 for selling the game at gamestop. Thats the main problem in my opinion. DLC needs to be regularly reduced in price, just like games are., and at a certain point should be free. I mean who would buy Call of Duty 3 map packs for $10 each now? I bet you can find the full game for $10 its so old.