This morning I caught a tweet from GameShark writer Todd Brakke on my twitter feed, about the price and DLC modalities of upcoming Bioware title Dragon Age 2 1. Granted, I removed that game from my shopping list a while ago, seeing that I never finished the original Dragon Age, and the add-on turned out to be a waste of money for me. But does it strike me as odd that the DLC shenanigans not only continue, but keep getting more ridiculous? Not really.
I won’t go on about the ‘good old days’ when game add-ons were only made if a game did well on its sales, and were shipped in physical form. Those days aren’t as good as they’re old now. Currently, you’re hard-pressed to find a game that’s not getting any form of downloadable content. The concept was introduced on modern consoles and has made its way to the PC, fully establishing itself on the platform during the last two or so years. It now comes in all possible shapes, from weapons and armour for RPGs, to additional multiplayer maps for shooters or RTS games, to fully-fledged add-ons and expansions.
My first brush with DLC, having arrived late at the console party, was Knothole Island for Fable 2. Never again will I be that naïve. I enjoyed Fable 2 thoroughly and was eager for more, however, the add-on turned out to be complete and utter rubbish. For two or three hours of additional gameplay, most of it not half as enjoyable as the main game, I felt cheated and ripped off.
I have since purchased only a few pieces of DLC for select games, and only after thorough research. I bought Operation Anchorage and Brotherhood of Steel for Fallout 3, finished the former (it was worth it!) but got so tired of the game’s instability that I never went any further with the latter. (For the same reason I most likely won’t be getting Dead Money for Fallout New Vegas.) I got the Undead Nightmare add-on for Red Dead Redemption, and that was an add-on that did everything right. It presented a new story, separate from the main game and playable or missable at the player’s leisure. And I got a few bits and pieces here or there. For Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 I only have the pieces of DLC that were included with my preorders.
Mass Effect 2 was a bit ridiculous in this sense. A year after release there’s still new DLC being made available, and virtually all of it ties into the game in a way that would require you to start a new game if you’ve already finished a playthrough. Or, as someone suggested, load an earlier save and play through the DLC. Which, at least in Mass Effect 2, just defeats the purpose. Dear Bioware, as a working man with a reasonable amount of personal life, how many times do you expect me to go back and replay the same game just for another hour of additional content?
Ok, and now that we’ve settled that, answer me the rephrased question: how many times do you realistically think I will replay the exact same game just for another hour of content?
Do I have to go on about the completely deplorable habit of having different pre-order bonuses depending on retailer? It’s bad enough that games are released with Day-1 DLC, but to have exclusive DLC with one retailer and different exclusive DLC with another retailer just boggles the mind. It’s the kind of joke for which you’d shoot a comedian for telling it.
Keeping all this in mind, what should DLC ideally look like?
DLC should expand on the idea of the original game. Not just complete it. DLC that just adds a bit of gameplay without expanding the original premise might as well be released with the game at launch, and for free. Otherwise it feels like a rip-off.
If DLC integrates into the game, make it available on launch day. This way people with limited time can decide if they want to play it or not. Taking parts out of a complete game to sell them as DLC later is douchebaggery.
DLC should not make me replay a whole game just to get there. The idea of loading a save to play it is a crutch. It breaks immersion and defeats the purpose.
Most of all, DLC should not be noticeable when it’s not there. Don’t put a hook in a game where you offer me a quest line, and when I want to take it, it’s ‘Insert 10 bucks’. Dragon Age anyone?
Not that I realistically expect any publishers to take any of the above to heart – after all they’re in it for the profit – but I’ve drawn my own conclusions. Any DLC that does not at least remotely abide to this, I will not buy it. Heck, I may even hold off buying the game entirely. If I anticipate a game to be DLC-heavy, I will not buy it at launch. If I expect a game to be DLC-heavy and later come out with a ‘Complete Edition’, I will not buy it at launch. If I see a game that charges extra for Day-1 DLC and will feel incomplete without it – I will not buy it. My time is limited, so is my money.
One last thought – you will never hear me make a case for piracy. But trying to squeeze every last cent out of your customers with DLC, dear publishers, is not exactly a persuasive argument against it…
- Yes, I borrowed the title from that tweet ↩