As we all know, video games have been around for a while. What hasn’t been around for a while? Downloadable content, or DLC, a relatively new practice that is usually immensely profitable for publishers, frustrating for gamers; at other times, it is neither of those things. We’ve been through several generations of consoles, but the online marketplaces of the Xbox 360 and the PS3 changed everything. We have grown accustomed to the reality of the existence of DLC.
DLC is not always the bane of existence for gamers. While it’s certainly unfair that we have to pay extra for content for a game we already payed up to 60 dollars for, the fact of the matter is that in past generations, we would never have experienced those extras; the content would have been left on the cutting room floor. It may irritate someone to pay another 20 dollars for extra content, but there is often value in the extra money spent. This post is entitled “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” because it describes both DLC and gamers’ relationship with DLC perfectly.
What is “The Good”? It could be DLC that comes a few weeks or months after the initial release of the game that gives the player several more quality hours of gameplay, or enhances the story of the original game, or in a broader sense, is simply well worth the value of what the individual paid for the downloadable content. Mass Effect 2‘s “Lair of the Shadow Broker” is an ideal example of this. In “Shadow Broker”, Shepard helps important Mass Effect character Liara T’Soni take down the infamous information trader, the Shadow Broker. After only seeing Liara for a short time in the main ME2 story, “Shadow Broker” is wonderful for bringing Liara properly back into the series and for truly connecting Mass Effect 2 to Mass Effect 3. Other examples of this type of expansive, worthwhile DLC includes The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion‘s “Shivering Isles”, Fallout 3‘s “Broken Steel” and “Point Lookout”, and Red Dead Redemption‘s “Undead Nightmare”.
“The Bad” is almost always day one DLC, expensive DLC that is barely worth it, or content that is cut due to its relative weakness that publishers make available later as DLC. Day-one DLC is especially terrible because it almost always means the content is included on the disc, but you have to pay to unlock it. One of the most egregious examples of this is Assassin’s Creed 2, which actually had a plot contrivance to skip over two memory sequences that were later made playable. However, these two sequences were not nearly as good as the rest of the game and, given that they were 9 dollars, not worth the cost. Similar issues cause Dragon Age: Origins‘ “Return to Ostegar” and “Darkspawn Chronicles” and Borderlands’ “Mad Moxxi” to be more frustrating than they should be for content that costs extra.
“The Ugly” refers to the complex relationship gamers have with downloadable content. On the one hand, you can experience incredible add-ons like “Shadow Broker”, and yet, at the same time, coast through Assassin’s Creed 2‘s “Bonfire of the Vanities”. Ultimately, gamers have to accept that DLC is here to stay and hope that developers get better at creating worthwhile content. Until then, we will have to deal with the DLC.