November 25, 2010 - Downloadable content is nothing new, and in fact, bonus game content has been around since the days of Halo 2 in the form of bonus maps to keep the multiplayer experience fresh. Since then, the market for bonus content has grown exponentially. Now when a game is released, people don't just think its developers will release downloadable content (DLC), but in the backs of their minds they expect it. The question that remains is what form it will take and how much it will cost. There are those who believe DLC is nothing more than a scheme to leech out more money from consumers without actually having to release another game. On the other side of the table, there are those who look forward to DLC as a way to extend the life of a game that they spent their hard-earned money on, thereby further justifying their investment. Both sides have valid points, and in fact, I think they are both right.
This generation of gaming has been plagued by unsatisfactory games, and companies have started falling back on DLC to try to save a game and boost sales with some gimmick that might attract a new demographic. While this may work for some games, some companies are just trying to get as much as possible out of a game without actually releasing something new. Any game that relies on extra content to flesh it out, or in some cases to actually make the game feel complete, has already failed and should take its place in the discount games bin.
When I see bonus content for some of these titles, I wonder why it wasn't just included in the original release. This brings me to only one conclusion. Certain developers intentionally leave out features when releasing a new title, allowing them to charge $60 for most of the game's content while being able to charge more for the rest in the form of DLC. If I'm correct, this strategy is greedy and unethical, and companies that practice it should be avoided when considering your next game purchase.
Don't get me wrong; not all additional content is bad. There are three types of legitimate downloads. There is additional content that adds real longevity to a game, bonus content that is unnecessary and really just for fun, and then there are full games that are good but short and not worth releasing in hard copy.
The first two are almost always released for games that are already solid, with no need for additional content. The first is not quite as common and is generally seen in games that have a strong multiplayer component like Call of Duty or Halo. Both of these franchises have grown into multiplayer juggernauts, and to supplement their main attraction, both have seen the release of multiplayer map packs to keep the online experience fresh, thus extending their lives significantly.
The second is everywhere. Almost every game that is released comes with simple, cheap downloads that are only for show like Xbox 360 Dashboard themes, avatar accessories, or gamer pics. These add nothing to the game, but they are enjoyed by those with a few extra bucks to spend on their favorite games. There are, however, more substantial downloads that may add an hour or two to the games you love. An example of this would be downloads available for the Mass Effect games. Both have seen downloadable content for extra characters and missions that aren't part of the main story arc, but add a bit more fun, exciting gameplay for those like me who truly love the game.
The third is pretty self-explanatory. There are dozens of games available on the downloadable markets that range from classic arcade favorites like Street Fighter or Marvel vs Capcom to games that are easy to pick-up and play for short periods for those that don't have hours at a time to play. These are great additions to the gaming world, and I think we will continue to see new releases in the future.
While there are both negative and positive downloads out there, I think that overall, downloadable content is a fun way to add to your gaming experience if you have a few bucks to drop and the judgment to discern solid extra content from feeble attempts to salvage a bad game. I think we will continue to see the market grow in the future, and I look forward to seeing what new frontiers will be pioneered in the gaming world.
CCC Freelance Writer