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Who is DLC really designed for?
Posted on October 04, 2012 by Nickolai Niver

The other day, I found myself discussing some basics of game journalism with a friend. After talking for a while, he said: “Oh man, I love video games. I play them all the time. I should be a game journalist!” This was nice to hear, so I quickly inquired about his favorite video games. His response: “Man, I love Call Of Duty and Halo. Those games are so good!”

At this point, the socially acceptable response amongst 'elite gamers' like myself is simple. Flip the desk, jump on the heretic's stomach, and start beating our chest while screaming “SHADOW OF COLOSSSUUUUUUUS!”  Luckily, I was in a good mood and began discussing his favorite games with him. It wasn't long before I came to a realization: All his favorite games had more DLC stapled to them than all the Total War games combined.

Awesome first person shooter for the casual gamer? OR SPAWN OF SATAN!

It's true. Downloadable Content, something that some gamers have considered the bane of gaming for so long are very prevalent in titles like Call Of Duty and Battlefield. There have been many arguments for this case. Some say DLC exists to counter the purchasing of used games, while others go as far as to say it's greed on the developer's part. The truth is that this practice has been around a lot longer than we give it credit for.

The primary practice displayed in DLC for yearly games like Call of Duty is to harvest money continually from people who buy very limited games each year. It's a way to separate the gap between people like me who can easily spend $100 a month on gaming and those who will spend no more than $180 a year on games.

The premise is simple. Company X produces nine games a year. Gamer A will purchase seven of those games while Gamer B will only purchase one or two. At this point, the difference in profit made from Gamer A and Gamer B for Company X is substantial. Company X, while grateful to Gamer A, wants to make more money as there are substantially more people who represent Gamer B in the world than Gamer A. The solution? Make more money off of the few games that Gamer B WILL buy.

This is where DLC comes into play. Continuing with my example, there has to be a fair way for Gamer B to give Company X more money. Disregarding Gamer A completely, Company X releases more content for Gamer B's purchased game, but charges for it.  Gamer B, who doesn't spend nearly as much money as Gamer A on video games, sees no problem with this. This looks like a legitimate arrangement for Gamer B and Company X, but the problem is that Gamer A thinks Company X is squeezing him for cash and goes on the internet to complain about it.

The problem Gamer A now faces is that he is taking a shallow view: the practice of acquiring more money from a limited product has been around forever. Don't believe me? Just ask your average World of Warcraft fanatic.

"Anybody seen my son? He's about 6 foot even and wears a grey suit of armor"

While in a different form, your average pay-to-play MMORPG exhibits many of the same features as Call Of Duty.  By requiring players to pay monthly between expansion packs, companies like Blizzard are performing the same functions of Activision.  They require the player to continue to pay them money to enjoy their product. While DLC is generally considered “optional”, many games like Halo Reach become limited to those that did not purchase the online play. A more accurate portrayal of this practice is a free-to-play MMO that makes players purchase power. Failure to do so makes their character significantly weaker than someone who has spent money on the “free-to-play” title.

Here's the problem: DLC is not evil as long as it adds more to the player’s experience. In the case of Call of Duty, where it serves to add more multiplayer levels or weapons, it's understandable. Those extras were designed for gamers who play the game and want to play something new when they sign on with their 4th level prestige character. Granted, not all DLC is fair, but the vast majority serves those who play the title a lot.

If you're a gamer who constantly complains about every game having DLC, perhaps you need to rethink your monthly spending. You don't need to pay for every DLC that comes out for every game you buy.  DLC is an optional experience for fans of the game and in many cases it benefits the developers of the games you love. The problem is that gamers take the presence of DLC too personally.  Sure, some developers *coughCapcomcough* have been known to abuse DLC, but is it all bad? If it's not what you want, then don’t pay for it and shut up, because lots of other folks do like it and have no problem buying it.

Nickolai Niver - Staff Writer nic (@) original-gamer.com | all author's articles

What do you think of #Gamergate?

There's a problem in the industry that is being covered up by those with the loudest voices.
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