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.