How To Do DLC Correctly
DLC has always been a point of contention in the gaming industry and for good reason. What started out as a nice way to expand upon an already existing game has been codified into a way for developers to make a quick buck with little to no effort. I think DLC is a good thing. If I love a game, I would obviously like to experience more of it and what better way than to get more content from the same universe a ways down the line. But as I’ve said, the industry abuses it like a dominatrix’s husband, like they do all new ideas that gather success. So today I’m going to give developers a guide on how to do their DLC correctly even though none of them will read this, probably. I’ll do it anyway for the sake of discussion. Because I love you all and would just like to cuddle.
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The 6 Month Rule
Ever seen a game that just released have DLC already? That’s not “Downloadable Content”, that’s “we cut this from the game so that we can make extra cash on top of our initial revenue”. What developers need to do is keep the 6 month rule close to heart. 6 months after a game releases is almost the bare minimum amount of time to wait before putting out any DLC. By that time, everyone has played your game already and it has gone into a state of remission. By releasing DLC then, you reinvigorate the game and give people a reason to play it again. That, in turn, gives your game relevance again.
By releasing something a few months after release people will just go “I already paid full price for this game and haven’t experienced it fully yet, why would I buy more stuff on top of that?”. I don’t understand why developers think this is a good idea because it sure does seem obviously stupid. The main point here is that you need to wait and craft your DLC to be of high quality first off and also give people time to fully experience your game.
Day One DLC Is Stupid
I think this one is quite obvious, but I’ll repeat it again for the sake of argument. Day One DLC is absolutely the worst possible thing you can ever do for your game’s DLC. Like I’ve said above, this stinks of cutting content from the main game just to make extra revenue on top of the already substantial revenue stream. From Ashes, a Day One DLC for Mass Effect 3, is probably the best possible example of this stupid idea. They cut out an entire character that lasts throughout the entire game and is an integral part of the overarching narrative and for what exactly? It couldn’t have been in the main game to start with? Any excuse you can possibly make would be invalid because there is just no logic behind it. All Day One DLC really is, is a way for developers to make revenue off second-hand sales and boost pre-orders. Nothing more, nothing less and it’s quite disgusting.
Expand Rather Than Rehash
This is a personal problem I have with DLC. When I consider buying DLC, I would like to have a new experience rather than just have more of the same. BioShock Infinite’s Clash in the Clouds is an example of how not to expand. It took already existing stuff from the main game, put it in an arena, put some challenges in there and that was it. That’s what you call a rehashing of what you can already do in the main game. Fallout 3 and New Vegas have possibly the strongest examples of expanding. Each and every DLC pack brings new locations to explore,, interesting quests, more NPCs, new weapons and sometimes even different mechanics. It’s a prime example of how to take your existing game’s mechanics and expanding upon them to gain a new experience.
This point is crucial because it’s possibly your only justification for DLC. To expand upon an already robust experience. That’s what DLC is supposed to be, not some challenge mode that offers nothing of worth.
New Weapons And Outfits Don’t Count
Nothing pisses me off more than when I read a game I enjoyed gets DLC, but then it just turns out to be some new weapons and a new bloody coat or whatever. This offers nothing of value and is basically just cosmetic changes. I’m not totally opposed to the idea because it does give you some new content, but don’t masquerade it as some sort of game changer. I see this sort of content as microtransactions rather than DLC. The same can be said of weapon packs and those special feature packs you often get with a new release. The main problem I have with this sort of content is that they are more often than not ludicrously overpriced. A golden weapon set might cost the same as something like Old World Blues from Fallout New Vegas and that pack offered over 30 hours of worthwhile content.
New characters in things such as fighting games are still acceptable because they add new options to you as a player. Outfits and shiny guns do not. Speaking of characters in fighting games, this is probably the most rocky form of DLC ever since Capcom screwed the pooch with on-disc DLC. While on that point, it should be obvious by now, but on-disc DLC is evil, disgusting and can never be justified in the history of ever. So don’t do it. Ever.
The most essential aspect of DLC has to be value. You’re asking your players to give you more money on top of the already exuberant amount of money you spent on it in the first place, so at least give them something of value. There are quite a few examples of value DLC packs out there such as Left Behind from The Last of Us, Fallout’s packs, BioShock Infinite’s Burial At Sea, the Mass Effect series has quite a bunch, Skyrim’s packs, Dark Arisen from Dragon’s Dogma and so forth. All of these DLCs have something in common and that’s value. They offer robust experiences that can stand on their own, expands on a game’s established mechanics with new mechanics and content of their own, can be played for long periods of time and they released later on in a game’s lifespan to make them relevant again.
Value is key and it’s something that developers need to understand when they make DLC. A new coat isn’t going to give value to your game, so put in some effort into it and give us something that’s worth it. The benefits are hard to argue with. It makes your game relevant again, acting sort of like free advertising, increases total revenue of a game especially if it’s successful in the press, boosts customer confidence and gives your fans a reason to stick around and so much more. Don’t give me a new monster truck and expect me to be impressed, put some work into it.
As I’ve said, I’m not opposed to DLC at all. I think it’s something great within the industry and it exists to give us more worthwhile experiences on top of those we get already. Some of my best experiences have come from DLC such as Mass Effect 3’s Citadel, Burial at Sea and the various Fallout DLCs. But the industry doesn’t seem to realise that and would rather release map pack after map pack and be confused when it fails. If developers followed these guidelines I’ve set out, then the contentious world of DLC wouldn’t be such a cesspit as it is today.