The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Downloadable Content

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.

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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.

  2 comments for “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Downloadable Content

  1. Evan
    April 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I think “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” is a great way of describing most downloadable content, although there is certainly a gray area. In this day in age I feel like it would be prudent of more game reviewers to review the more substantial dlc for popular games such as Mass Effect (I know that some reviewers already do this, but I feel as though it should be a more common practice).

    Another thing that should be noted is the presence of things like “Season Pass” in Gears of War or the “Cerberus Card” for Mass Effect, in which you could either buy a collector’s addition of the game or buy the pass individually, which would grant you access to some dlc such as maps, armor, or weapons (most of which negligible) ahead of time or would download them for free for the player when upon release. This seems like it gives the developer little incentive to produce quality content, as the players have already paid in hopes that whatever is released will amount to something worth $15+ dollars.

  2. quigles
    January 29, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    I agree entirely. DLC is a very well mixed bag for me for all of the reasons you just said. However, I will say that whether or not DLC is “worth buying” is up to opinion. For example, I find extra levels that add to a game’s post-game and new characters are worth getting, but alternate costumes or pallet swaps to be something I could live without. I do not mind paying more money to add to a game I feel deserves it no matter the cost. The quality of DLC should be given as much TCL (see what I did there) as the quality of the game the DLC is for. I don’t mind paying $30 for DLC if I think the DLC adds to the quality of the game I bought. I don’t care I spent $30 on a game that cost me $60 if the game’s quality is leaps and bounds better because of it. DCL gets in trouble when it costs too much and the quantity and quality of the DLC is not worth it or when people find the game incomplete without the DLC and must shovel up more money to get a quality gaming experience. One company I think does DLC correctly is Nintendo. With Nintendo, what you are given is a game that is of good quality without DLC but DLC is available should you want more out of your game and not just aesthetic changes but full new levels, more characters, and aesthetic changes are there as an added in bonus but not the main focus of each pack of DLC.

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