Are the DLCs worth it?

By nerdboy, Posted 11 Mar 2011

DLC is possibly one of the best and worst things to happen to games. (Stick with me)


First of all nothing ticks me off more than UPS showing up at my house with my brand new game in hand on the day of release and as I'm popping the game into the PS3/360/etc. I notice through twitter (or whatever gaming news site you like) and notice how they've already gone and announced a bunch of DLC for the game. Most recently for me this occured with Dead Space 2. Day one of release and the Severed DLC pack was announced. Now on the one hand (I haven't got to play it just yet but I'll be picking it up on Thursday) this sounds and look like it's going to be a great piece of content. It's totally separate from the main story of the game and seems like it'll be adding something to it and that's great. However, at least have the decency to wait a couple of weeks after your game is out to announce DLC. Announcing it day one just makes your fans feel like they're not getting a full product. Dead Space 2 for example is a freaking amazing game. There's loads of content in there and you're not getting some gimped version of the game with DLC to come to take you to that full 100%. You are paying full price for what may be to some one of the best games of this year and you're getting a darn good deal. However by announcing it on day one suddenly you have this crowd of people who suddenly feel like this Dead Space 2 game they have in their hands is somehow incomplete. Developers wanting to push out DLC like Severed that is separate from the main story to the game and maybe adds some neat stuff to it is great. More Dead Space is fantastic and for seven dollars that's honestly not that bad. However there is a major issue going on here...


The ‘Dead Space 2: Severed DLC’ is available now on PSN and XBLA.

Assassin's Creed 2 is a TERRIBLE culprit of DLC that is downright shameful. If you remember there were something like two memories throughout the course of the game that "mysteriously" weren't working correctly and then low and behold OH HEY DLC GUYZ!!!111 Seriously, screw you Ubisoft. This is the first thing that comes to mind as far as developers deliberately cutting out parts of a game to use as DLC later on. Now perhaps that's not exactly how it happened but to force me to buy DLC to get to play through missions that are just over half way through your game is downright shameful. Especially when that content is ALREADY ON THE DISC. Give me extra missions that take place afterwards, give me some kind of cool bonus story line that was NEVER PART OF THE ACTUAL GAME...but don't cut out content that's midway through this story you're trying to tell with the intention of pushing it out as DLC later on. You're doing a disservice to yourself and to your fans.


Other forms of DLC that I see people complain about a LOT are generally costume packs and things of that nature. Honestly as long as these packs come later and are not a 86kb unlock file for something that is ON THE DISC I'm okay with it. There's an artist out there who needs to put in some work in making these costumes and they should get paid for the work they do. Which I guess brings us to this whole "DLC should be free" thing. Well it shouldn't. When a game is finished there's usually a good amount of down time for the developers. Lets just say that it's somewhere around a month. Obviously you're not going to want developers sitting around doing nothing for a few weeks while they wait for the game to ship. Sometimes this ends up being the development team gets to work on planning some post-release content. The game is finished. It's done. When you go to buy that game at a store you are getting the full game. For instance lets look at Borderlands. About a month after Borderlands released we got the Zombie DLC. The zombie dlc was never part of the original game but the developers thought it'd be neat to add that mission set into the game as DLC. It was 10 dollars and gave you a few more hours of playtime. That's totally fine. The developers finished Borderlands, which is a pretty great game with a LOT of content, and they continued pushing out for the most part quality content for their fans. These developers worked hard to give their fans content that they knew they would enjoy. They SHOULD get paid for it. Gamers in general (not pointing anyone out for the record I just see this way too much) have the worst sense of entitlement I've ever seen. Do I get upset when DLC gets announced day one (or sometimes even before the game is released)? You bet I do. But the notion that somehow we are entitled to get this content for free? That's freaking ludicrous. There are teams of people working hard to give even more hours of content to fans of their game and they deserve to get paid for their work. If it's DLC that was very clearly ripped out of the game then that's a different argument all together but for the most part it seems to be getting better. We're seeing DLC like Undead Nightmare, Lair of the Shadow Broker, the LBP Level packs, WipEout HD Fury and much more. These DLC are all super high quality and well worth the money and sometimes more. While some developers are certainly trying to abuse the system it's clear that there are a lot of devs who 'get it'. Which is what I'd like to point out now.


There are new trophies added in the Fury Pack for all you trophy mongers out there.


Undead Nightmare came out last Halloween and took Red Dead Redemption and flipped it on it's head. By adding zombies to the game suddenly the way you played RDR had to be totally changed. Instead of being able to take cover during fire fights you were constantly being chased down by zombies and you had to change how you played the game. This is one case of perfectly executing what DLC should be. They gave us a very lengthy piece of content for ten dollars that delivered a totally different experience from the main game.


WipEout HD Fury remains to be (in my opinion) one of the BEST pieces of DLC ever. The original WipEout HD ran for 20 dollars and delivered one of my favorite games this generation. It's one of few downloadable games that I honestly believe gave 60 dollars worth of content and I loved every second of it. Then over a year later WipEout HD Fury comes around. For ten dollars we got a SECOND campaign mode that was just as long as the original game and with loads of new tracks. Not only that but there were something like 4-5 modes added to the game both offline and online. For half the price of the original game they gave you a DLC pack that added just as much content as the full game did. I honestly felt like I had enough content to make for two fantastic WipEout games.


Heck the obvious example that I don't know if anyone has mentioned in this thread is Rock Band. Over 2000 songs. They can easily push out more and more songs as they get the rights to them and continuously expand the Rock Band platform. It's a GREAT way to take advantage of DLC while also pleasing your fans. The songs are a fair price and more Rock Band songs is always a great way to expand the life of that game.


Rock Band songs is always a great way to expand the life of that game.


This post is getting long so I'll wrap it up. I think it's pretty clear where I draw the line with DLC. If it's something that was taken out of the game to be saved specifically for DLC then that's dirty. Costumes that are on the disc but locked until you pay for the key is shameful. When we're being nickle and dimed in that way then yes, screw DLC. However, DLC has also given me some of the best gameplay experiences of the last few years. I usually like a buffer of at least two months or so until I see DLC for a new release game but honestly it does kind of depend. DLC should be something that really does add to the game. We shouldn't feel like we're being gimped when we hear the phrase DLC we should react in a positive way. We should see DLC news and think "Oh awesome this means I get even more new content for this game that I love". That means that developers should start to put more effort into delivering post-release content that's worth it though. Don't gimp us only to expect us to pay more money for the complete version of the game in other words.


EDIT:  I figured it'd be fun to get a developer's take on this. David Jaffe recorded a video blog where he talked about Game sharing, DLC, Day One DLC and such in about 9 minutes. The DLC stuff begins a few minutes in but I honestly agree with everything he says in the video. Jaffe gets crap from a lot of people but he tells it how it is consistently and I believe he tends to nail the issue on it's head each time. So here's the video for you all to watch it was from about a year ago but I feel it's relevant to this topic.

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  • Interesting points you bring up, but overall, I'd say I'm against DLC. The problem is that the term is a bit vague. I personally like to draw a line between DLC and expansion packs. DLC is what I'd call stuff like extra maps and characters, and stuff like that, while expansion packs actually add new content, such as a new campaign or a totally new take on the game (Undead Nightmare for example).


    With this in mind, I do think DLC should be free. You argue that developers work hard to produce extra content, but with the majority of the DLC, that is not the case. It doesn't cost a lot of effort to produce a few extra multiplayer maps, and odds are they are just the remainders of the original development cycle (as was the case with BioShock 2). Either way, 4 or so maps definitely do not warrant the $15 price tag they slap on it these days.


    The essential problem is that we now buy a product, but not get the full package while we did pay the full price. This is a worrying trend that should be approached carefully, just like other phenomenon such as limited edition in-game bonus content.

    Posted Mar 11, 2011

  • Definitely get where you're coming from on this wonderful take on DLC. It can be an amazing thing, but at the same time it's super frustrating. I remember when I was waiting for Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 to come out that in the roster reveal (where they note all the wrestlers in the game a month or two before release) that they had already announced the DLC. It's not the end of the world to me, I just want bang for my buck -- If I'm paying for something, then I want value in it -- and thus I see your problem with the ACII DLC.


    Anyway, I could ramble on repeating your well made points or just give you the kudos you deserve. I choose the latter, excellent blog mate.

    Posted Mar 11, 2011

  • Well i cant say i have been into many DLC's. I usually play a game for what it has and thats about it. if it has a free DLC ill download for the heck of it and most times not even play them (exception for RE5 which i bought the gold edition just because of the content and extra story) but i will say that content should be released at least a little over a month after the initial release. specially for good long games. that gives you plenty of time to finish the current game, maybe start on another game and then "wow! DLC for that great game i beat last month...lets touch base on it again and then lets get that new content!" thats how i see it anyways.


    contrary to our friend Degtyarev's comment i do believe they should charge for the content. i mean, if its EXTRA content that was created after the game, then the programmers should get paid for thier work in one way or another. but the programmers already get paid for the work they put on the original game and thats why they take such breaks and what not. ofcourse, i would say they should be charging less than half of what they ask for now. Gaming has turned into a money money money business just like Porn turned into a all money and cheap sex over the past 2 decades and because of that...our pockets hurt specially during these troubling times.

    Posted Mar 11, 2011

  • I can't disagree with your views but from my point of view, DLCs should be free. Unless the total gameplay is over 10 hours, there's no point of paying twice for one single game in practical.

    Posted Mar 11, 2011
  • I really can't see spending any money on a "costume pack." That's basically like the developer saying "We don't want any user created content to mess up our game!" With Bethesda's TES Oblivion, you could download so much beautiful and free addon material, and it made the community stronger around the game. Eventually Bethesda adds all of their DLC into a gold edition, so gamers who wait for all of the bugs to be worked out can buy the who shabang for much less than the the original price, bug free mostly.

    I waited on getting into Battlefield Bad Company 2 and ended up buying it on steam right around the time that they released Vietnam. I was a little miffed about the idea of it, but then it occured to me, I bought Bad Company 2 on sale for 15 dollars, and the DLC just released (many months after BC2 originally came out, maybe a year?) and the DLC was $15. So I was basically getting a lot more game for less than the price of the initial release of the BC2. Plus the online population is still strong for it. So when it comes to DLC, being patient really helps. Early adopters who need to be the first in the game usually end up getting shafted in the gaming business when if comes to software AND components, you know... bugs, DLC, prices.
    Posted Mar 13, 2011

  • @Degtyarev


    The issue is you can't just expect people to work for free. If they are charging you for something on the disc that's one thing. If it's on the disc and you're just purchasing a key to unlock the content then yeah I'm going to feel like they're purposely holding back content on me to try to nickel and dime me. That content should be free if it makes me feel like I'm not getting 60 dollars worth (or however much I paid for the game.)  However anything after that is essentially fair game. Some developers do choose to push out free DLC. This is a priveledge NOT a right. If devs choose to give us free DLC then more power to them but I can't blame them for wanting to get paid for their work. I think it's fair to say that costume packs (which I'm 50/50 on myself) are generally charged at a fair price. Artists who make that content should get paid for that work. The only case that DLC should absolutely be free is if it's already on the disc. Because then we're getting into a case of the developer/publisher holding back content purposely just to get more money out of us.




    Your Smackdown vs. Raw example reminds me of the Mortal Kombat demo that came out for PS+ members this past week. There were four characters that you could choose from in the demo and in the bottom left and right part of the character selection screen was spots for 2 DLC characters. I haven't followed the game too much I admit so this could be old news (and probably is) but seeing that there in the demo kind of irked me a little bit.




    Yeah, in fact like with my WipEout HD example when I found out about new content I was jumping off the walls with excitement. After playing through the DLC I know my excitement was totally justified and there's been plenty more DLC that's given me that feeling of "yay more content for this game that I love!".


    I don't think I really touched on this in my post but I agree there is some DLC that I think does generally cost too much. The easy example is the Call of Duty 15 dollar map packs. I guess it depends on the player but 15 does seem rather steep. Then again someone who is huge into the multiplayer of that game is probably going to get more than enough gameplay out of those maps to warrant the price. I tend to think most of the prices for DLC is pretty fair. Though it certainly does follow a case by case basis. If it's something that you enjoy you're obviously going to look back on that DLC and think that it was a good deal. On the other side if it's something that you hated then you're probably going to feel ripped off.




    I can honestly only think of one piece of DLC that provided me with more than ten hours of gameplay. Also the way you worded that it sounds like you're probably not buying the vast majority of games these days because they're less than 10 hours. I actually talked about the concept of putting an arbitrary number of hours to decide if a game was worth when I talked about whether or not 15 dollars was too much for a digital download game on this blog a few months back. Lair of the Shadow Broker for example took me about two hours and cost 10 dollars for 360 owners. It was more than worth the money because the DLC was just that darn good. Quality > Quantity. There are games out there that have left me with a far more memorable experience  in three hours than many games I've played for more than 10 hours. Maybe I'll further this into a later blog but we need to get away from this whole " if a game isn't x hours then it's not worth it".  Shadow of the Collosus (my personal all time favorite game) can easily be completed in just a couple of hours but that's not the point. It's the experience that you have getting from the beginning to the end of that game. It has left a stronger impact on me than many games I've completed that were over 60 hours long. I'm getting off point a bit though...


    You don't have to buy DLC, if you feel okay with just paying once for your game that's totally fine and understandable. But as I mentioned above there's no reason to expect DLC to be free when people deserve to get paid for their work. Especially seeing as putting together a piece of DLC that is over a few hours long IS a lot of work for the whole team. In many cases a lot of new assets need to be made and I'd imagine something that is just a few hours long generally takes a LOT of time to finish.




    To be fair early adopters for anything (not just gaming related) are going to spend more money. That's just how things work. We are seeing a lot of games releasing a "Game of the Year" edition of the game with all the DLC bundled and that's great. I don't think it's fair to say early adopters get shafted because we know what we're paying and we know that we could easily wait a year for the price to be much lower. To some people though that's not a huge deal. There are certain games that I go out of my way to buy day one because I want to support that developer. That's not to say I'm buying crappy games to support a dev that I like but something like Dragon Quest I will buy day one because I feel like that developer does an awesome job with those games who deserves to be rewarded for that. While there are a lot of companies out there that are money hungry I do think a lot of developers are out there who are much more excited about people liking their game and giving those fans more content. This of course is mostly seen with smaller studios but it is prominent.

    Posted Mar 13, 2011

  • Don't you think they are alrady getting paid enough for their works? Consider Black Ops which is only around 20 hours of gameplay and it costs $50. You can play on multiplayers for ages and why paying $10 more for another small story line?

    Posted Mar 13, 2011

  • Black Ops goes for around $60 from what I see.  I think activision is leading the way in VG price gouging.  I know they have a big budget operation, but come on.  Other developers are able to pull off much better material at better prices.  The thing that REALLY gets me is that they try to retain their release prices well after the game has become shelf dust.  Then they want to charge for more on top of that?  Nope, I've never bought a COD game.  I had 1 and 2 given to me by a friend who couldnt put them on his comp.  I never really got into it though back in that time since I was stuck with a slow college internet connection.  The campaigns were ok, but I don't know how they got their hooks on such a large crowd of followers.  Guess it had to be the multiplayer. 

    Posted Mar 13, 2011

  • @Sleven

    Call of Duty is in many cases the exception and not the rule and let me get this straight.... "they've already been paid once why should they get paid more?" is basically what you're saying right? You do understand that these people who make games have families they need to take care of right? They're just like us they need to work and get paid to pay bills and put food on the table. They aren't some evil beings feeding off our money. DLC is, in most cases, not something that just gets pushed out the door in a couple of days. It often takes months to plan, create and then release to the public. A lot of hard work goes into creating it and there's no reason they shouldn't get paid for it. The bottom line is that this is their job. They are working hard to provide content for their fans. Is some DLC too expensive? Sure it probably is but that doesn't change the fact that they should get paid for what they do and we, as gamers, are not entitled to getting extra content for free just because we said so.


    Posted Mar 14, 2011

  • Fifty-fifty when it comes to buying DLCs and your article explains exactly why. Nice read.

    Posted Mar 14, 2011

  • @nerdboy : Interesting points you made about the DLC. Yes I would have to agree to all of your points. In fact some companies are trying to rip off customers with some pointless DLCs. Your Rock Band issue was agreable. In my point of view if the publishers didnt release these games frequently and release song packs, the replaybility could have been way higher than most games in th market. I dont know whether these falls into DLC category, but you forgot about the GTA games that are launched. Indeed they were pretty good and it was an intelligent way to use the concept of DLC. in fact Rockstar used the DLC thing quite effectively.

    Posted Mar 14, 2011

  • @Amaya

    Thanks! :)



    I try my best not to use something that I haven't experienced (like the GTA stuff) as an example since that would result in me talking about something that I don't understand or have any knowledge of. That being said from friends of mine who have played the GTA expansions (Ballad of Gay Tony and Lost and the Damned) I've heard exceptionally good things about those and I'd imagine they're great pieces of content for those who are interested.


    On the topic of Rock Band the reason I'm so excited about it now is the because of what has happened with Harmonix recently it seems like Rock Band 3 is the peak of that genre and now they can simply keep that game afloat with weekly song packs for many years to come and that's exactly what needs to happen for these music genre games.

    Posted Mar 14, 2011

  • @nerdboy: While the 'money for work principle' is essentially right, I dare say that the majority of the DLC is actually just rest material from the initial development cycle. This especially goes for costume, item, and even map packs. Major companies such as EA and Ubisoft know from the start of the development cycle that they are going to release DLC. Do you really think they're going to wait before the game itself has been finished, and then tell someone to go and make some extra content? I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way. I think the only paid DLC that is worth it is extra single player content, but we used to just call them expansion packs, so that is what I'll keep calling them. DLC, for me, is all the arbitrary crap that is released shortly after the release so that the publishers (because it's usually them and not the devs who insist on this) can harvest some extra money.

    Besides, even if the developers did work overtime to create DLC content, it is still way overpriced most of the time. When combined, the two MW2 map packs cost $30. That's 8 maps for the same amount of money that a lot of studios create entire games for.

    Posted Mar 14, 2011

  • @Degtyarev

    This kind of fits in with that video I posted at the end of this blog with David Jaffe weighing in from the developer's point of view. When devs are planning a game they're also planning the DLC as well. They know what's going to make it into the final build and what they want to do with the DLC. For games like Mass Effect Bioware knew they wanted to have DLC that would add some new characters, new missions etc. This isn't some scheme people are using to try to cut out content from the full game, make it DLC from the start, and make us pay even more money. This is devs trying to figure out ways to make their game last even longer. The more and more you go back to a game you've already finished the more that developer is going to be happy.


    I don't agree that the majority of DLC is left over material though. There's a pretty specific plan generally about what will be DLC from the get go. It's all a matter of expanding the life of the game for better or worse. I've said many times before if we have solid evidence (like in AC2's case) that the content was gimped from the game itself to later be sold as DLC then you have all the right in the world to be upset. But  if that's not the case then there's really no reason to think this DLC is something that's been worked on after the fact.

    Posted Mar 15, 2011

  • i liked the ammount of detail that you inputed and i would have to agree with amaya, but for myself the ammount of negatives are not as important as the possitives.

    Posted Mar 15, 2011

  • I completely agree, with all points. Also, kudos on covering all the different forms of DLC, in the various different games.

    I know personally, the DLC for Fable 3 was a pain in the neck... A few dollars for a dog costume? Or hair? What the...?

    Undead Nightmare is the benchmark for DLC, I would say.

    Great article, mate!

    Posted Mar 18, 2011

  • Totally Agreed :)

    Posted Mar 20, 2011

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