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Doing DLC right is not that hard - No, really, it's not

Despite popular opinion, you CAN make us pay the price of two games for one. Just do a few things right.

'Downloadable content' (DLC). A term that under normal circumstances will make any modern-day gamer cringe.

It seems that nowadays DLC and games have switched roles from what they were in the past. Back then, DLC was just used as a means to extend the longevity of the game by adding content for players to get more life out of them. It almost felt like fan-service in a way.

There are plenty of games out there that feel like the base game exists for the DLC, not the other way around

Now? DLC looks like its just become a way for gaming companies to extract more money from their consumers after the initial sale of their product. It's sad to think that within a few years, people buying video games will no longer remember paying full retail price and expecting a full experience.  

The Bad

To address how to go about making things right with DLC, we first have to address the worst offenders. There are plenty of games out there that feel like the base game exists for the DLC and not the other way around but for the sake of this article I will only address the ones I've had the displeasure of acquainting myself with.

Star Wars:Battlefront 

There is nothing that can be said to justify this game's insane season pass price tag and the amount of content you got for paying retail price. You paid $60? You get a multiplayer-only game with 9 modes of play (at the time of this article), 12 maps and... well, that's it. 

There are only a handful of modes that are actually popular so you'll probably find yourself playing the same game modes over and over which means you'll just be seeing a handful of the maps anyway. 

The DLC? If you pay $50 for the season pass you get 4 new game modes, 12 new maps and 4 unique characters over the course of 2016. 

The base game cost $60 and it came with 6 unique characters along with all I listed above. For almost the same price you get less paying for the season pass. 

Do you need to ask why this game received such a bad reputation?  

Destiny

You only have to type the name of the game into a search engine and chances are you will find links to a video or forum hating on it for the way its been treating its players (and continues to). 

Destiny players have a lot to be angry about, but the main reason why so many of us are is because we can see just how great of a masterpiece it could have been if the decision hadn't been made to cut the game up for profit.


It's blatantly obvious how many things had been cut out of the game. The most recent straw that broke the camel's back for me was the 'addition' of the sparrow racing. 

So after spending close to $100 more on the game --disregarding the base game price -- we finally have the game that justifies its initial price tag of $60 

The signs were all there way back in September 9th, 2014 when the base game first released. We were all questioning why our 'sparrows' had attributes (speed/durability) to them, some of the better ones going as far as to have rather unique ones at that. 

For something so simple as an in-game mount, why were these features added to it? There were a lot more things that drove me to look the other way when it came to this game and I could spend hours detailing how much Destiny had content cut from it to charge its players more money but for the sake of not dragging this on too long, here's an excellent video that sums it all up. I'm not here to detail bad DLC practices, rather, how to fix them. 

So after spending close to $100 more on the game --disregarding the base game price -- we finally have the game that justifies its initial price tag of $60.

The Good

Believe it or not, amidst the growing trend of bad DLC there have been a few shining lights in the  gaming industry: DLC that players feel are actually worth the additional dough they shell out for their games which, incidentally, were already substantial content-wise.

The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone

There's a reason why CD Projekt RED can't seem to do any wrong in the eyes of gamers. Their general consumer friendly behavior along with their latest creation: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, set a new standard for RPGs and gaming in general. It's no surprise that they won multiple game of the year awards for 2015. 

Basically you can spend less and enjoy more content than you would with other full retail priced games available now. 

But what I want to talk about is the DLC it offers. Hearts of Stone, the first expansion allows you to return to the world of Geralt and complete roughly over 10 hours of content.

There's a future expansion planned for release later this year dubbed Blood and Wine offering to expand this game an additional 20 hours. 

The content in question for both DLCs include new characters, main quests, side quests, equipment, etc.

The best part? The season pass costs roughly $25 which includes both the Hearts of Stone and the Blood and Wine expansions. You can buy Hearts of Stone for $9.99.

Basically, you can spend less and enjoy more content than you would with other full retail priced games available now. 

Bloodborne: The Old Hunters

Yet another example of DLC done right. The Old Hunters expansion gives you more than enough reason to return to Yharnam with the allure of new areas to explore, new weapons and equipment, and a mystery to solve.

While this may not sound extensive on paper, anyone who bought this expansion will agree that we got our money's worth. The areas we have to explore are vast and filled with secrets. The boss fights are still as unforgiving -- if not more so -- and the new items add more variety to game play which was already expansive with its unique weaponry. With everything we easily get around 15-20 hours of content, if not more.

Due to the notorious yet well-deserved reputation for being a difficult game, you can definitely expect more.

And all this cost $19.99.  Which most of us had no problems with at all despite it being the standard price for a single DLC.

The Solution

The difference between the 'good' dlc and the bad I've listed can be summed up by the price tag if you're going for face value. But there is more to it than that. 

Show the consumer that you respect them enough to justify the price tag you put on your product.

While the price tag does make a huge difference, if you offer value to the consumer, we are willing to pay the price. That's what companies like CD Projekt RED and From Software have done with their DLC. It's easy for us to accept the price tag for what we get in return.  

I know plenty of people were let down by Star Wars: Battlefront and Destiny who, despite all that, continue supporting these games. This should serve as a testament to how well made these games are. You already have something that the consumers want, why devalue them by mistreating the player base? 

Don't sell animations or features that should have been there from the beginning. Don't cut things out from a game to sell to us later at an additional price. Don't just add a few maps and game modes and try to charge us more than half the retail price of the base game.

Show the consumer that you respect them enough to justify the price tag you put on your product and you just might get away with charging us the price of two games.

Published Jan. 9th 2016
  • topher339
    I don't understand why good DLC is a challenge for some (cough...EA....cough) companies to figure out. As you have shown, games with good DLC do exist. So why is it so hard the rest to follow suit?

    I've recently been playing through Mass Effect (never got the chance to play them before). I am rather impressed with the way BioWare integrated their DLC. In no way was the DLC necessary but if purchased it provided for new story arcs, characters, and added to somewhat complex and immersive qualities of the game. It provided a new experience was well worth the cost.

    The DLC cost at most $15, several smaller ones were free. These days, decently priced DLC is getting harder to come by. Free DLC usually requires a pre-order (in which case it's really not exactly "free").

    Honestly, I don't how EA ever thought it would get away with it's "season pass". What's worse is that, as you pointed out, the DLC provides more content than the game itself for $10 less. I had the game pre-ordered but was still on the fence. As soon as I saw the DLC, my "maybe" turned into a big "nope".
  • Mackenzie Lambert_5420
    Contributor
    WWE'13's $.99 wrestlers and Rock Band's DLC model immediately come to mind as good examples of DLC. They were elements that weren't pivotal to the game, and the player didn't have a sense that they needed to buy it for the full experience.
  • shox_reboot
    Columnist
    Agreed. Getting DLC that seems optional instead of mandatory to get the full experience is the best kind but that's unfortunately become a thing of the past...at least with most companies out there now.

    At the same time though...I wouldn't mind if developers added DLC that players feel a need for IF they make it worth the additional amount of money they make us pay. Provided the base game was already worth it of course.
  • KendraG
    Contributor
    There was nothing more disappointing to me than waiting so long for a new Battlefront game and it ended up having a fifth of the content of one of the older games. I do hope that more games will take the Witcher 3's example in the future instead of Battlefront. Great article, you spoke right to my pain.
  • shox_reboot
    Columnist
    Thanks. Here's hoping we don't get short changed on our games this year.

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