Downloadable Content. It’s pretty much guaranteed to arrive for all new titles these days! Some games have even gone so far as to release DLC the day of the game launch! Doubtless fans enjoy DLC. Who doesn’t want to continue experiencing new things after you’ve seen everything the game as to offer? As of late it seems as if the industy has gone overboard with DLC. How has DLC gone from being a bonus released months after the games launch, to almost mandatory content released the very day the game is distributed? Honestly not all DLC is this bad. Bethesda, famous for releasing droves of DLC, seems to have cornered the market on the proper way to release DLC. Even that, however, can be seen as nothing more then a means to milk an already purchased product. For instance, Mass Effect 3.Downloadable content first appeared on consoles with the introduction of the Sega Dreamcast! Yes, it was limited in size, and often nothing more then an additional map, or item. The concept, however, was revolutionary! Microsoft soon took this idea and ran with it during the lifespan of the original Xbox console. Like the Dreamcast, content was made available post-release, and for the most part it was free! DLC was a way to enhance the game after its production. A way to give players more content without delaying the release of a game or creating a short spin-off that just was not needed. Then Microsoft realized something very interesting. They could make some serious money off these little packets. So, in 2002, with the release of Mech Assault, Microsoft did something that would forever change what DLC was. They charged for it. Since then DLC has really become a solid part of the video game industry. The Xbox 360 integrated DLC as a normal aspect of their console, and have even gone beyond and added full titles for purchase. Titles such as Rock Band or Guitar Hero release so much DLC that if you were to buy every song available for currently, it would cost over $1,000. As a gamer, I love DLC when it’s not being abused. However, we have moved beyond the territory DLC was intended for and have found ourselves in situation where we are simply being charged for content that should have already been present on the game.
Companies like Rock Star, regardless of how much their total DLC costs, are actually using DLC the right way. No one wants every song Rock Band has to offer, and the prices are often less than the actual album would cost you on iTunes! Where DLC has really gone astray is with titles like Mass Effect. Before the game even hit stores it was announced there would be downloadable content readily available to all consumers the day of launch. This content would introduce a new character, and storyline, that would greatly enrich the experience of the game. Bioware’s associate producer, Mike Gamble, stated, “During that certification time, we had a small team of developers begin to craft the ‘From Ashes’ content, with the intent to finish production on it long after ME3 was out of our hands as a dev team. However, because the plot of ME3 is so richly interwoven with the character interactions and moments, you simply cannot use a DLC module to ‘insert’ a new character.”
The developers realizing that in order for Javik to be a “fully featured squad member, with deep dialogue throughout the game,” they would be forced to implement some aspects of the DLC on the actual disc itself. The real issue here is not that the customers are being asked to pay for some content that is on the disc, already. It’s not even because the content is being released the day of launch! The true issue with this situation is that the developers had the intention to make this character, and his story, so deep and integral that the vanilla(original) game’s experience would change! The only catch…you have to pay extra. Any DLC released that can actually affect the outcome of the vanilla games story, will often be perceived as a deceitful way to obtain more money. When did developers decide to essentially “withhold” aspects of a game for future purchase? This line of thought has essentially bridged the gap of players. Those who cannot afford DLC will now experience a lesser version of the game. Bioware still defends its actions, stating “From Ashes is a 600 MB+download with all new content, including the mission on Eden Prime, new dialogue options and conversations with Javik, new cinematics, the Prothean weapon, and new appearances for all squad members. All the above content was completed while the main game was in certification and are not available on the disc.” Yes, but the idea for Javik had to have occured before that, as they placed his actual model on the disc. So instead of adding this “deep” character, whose dialogue can greatly influence the actions of Shepard, they opted to hold off and create it as DLC.