Downloadable content (DLC) has been around for a long time, but not in the same state that we see it in now though. For the most part these creations were done by individuals or small groups of fans who then posted their creations on websites. Often these mods were for games already out and their quality ranged from great to abysmal. Unreal Tournament and Half Life were games which received their fair share of attention from modders, and one of the most famous mods was Counter Strike, which is still popular even to this day.
Of course these pieces of DLC were not made by the developers, who at that point had only two real options to develop games, a sequel or an expansion, both of which required a large investment of their creators time and all of the costs that are associated with development. DLC was, on consoles, for a long time constrained by the hardware. The first console to come with internet capabilities was the Dreamcast but the slow speeds and limited memory were unkind to DLC and there wasn’t much content being produced as a result.
It was only really when Microsoft entered the gaming scene did DLC on consoles start to really appear. The introduction of Xbox Live meant that many titles such as Splinter Cell and Halo 2 received DLC. One of the surprising things was that this initial DLC offered at this point were free, it was only in 2003 that the first premium DLC was unveiled for Mech Assualt. $4.99 got you two new multiplayer game types and three new maps, not bad when compared to the $15 that Activision now charge for their Call of Duty map packs.
With the ball rolling DLC gained popularity for obvious reasons. It was a way to keep a game earning once it had been released, it encouraged gamers to keep hold of their games so that they can get new content and thus restricts the second-hand market, which publishers are keen to do, and it also keeps interest in the game. (Look at how wild the internet went when First Strike came out on the 1st of February.)
Of course while DLC is good – I like getting add-ons for my games as much as anyone – there are problems associated with it, some due to the system for accessing DLC and some due to other reasons. With the system itself – Xbox Live and Wii being guilty of this – the requirement that gamers must buy the specified credits in order to purchase a game. The problem being that the amount of credits being sold doesn’t tally to the cost of the content. Xbox Live charge 800-1200 MS Points for DLC but the available points are not sold in bundles of 800, 1200 etc. No they are sold at 500, 1000 meaning that to buy DLC costing 800 I need to purchase 1000 points. While this isn’t going to break the bank it’s annoying when compared to the Apple App Store where I just pay £0.59 for a game and I’m not required to buy Apple points to do so.
DLC has also been accused of money grabbing, what do I mean? I’m looking at cases where all the DLC does is unlock content which is already on the disc. BioShock 2 did this with its Sinclair Solutions DLC and there were claims that Resident Evil 5 did this with its Versus mode, though Capcom deny this claiming that the download is new code and that it simply reuses old assets.
Another controversial piece of DLC is EA’s ‘Project $10’ (or the slightly odder sounding ‘Project Six and a bit quid.’) where games now come with a code that allows you to play online. The code is good for one use only meaning that if you buy a game second-hand you’re likely going to have to pay more than if you’d just bought the game new. I’d forgotten about this when I bought the newest Need for Speed meaning the £2 I saved got me only half a game which was really annoying, truth be told.
Is DLC good? I’d say so, it allows me to have bits added to my game, so that I can keep enjoying it, Fallout 3, Mass Effect 2, Call of Duty, they’ve all had some DLC that I’ve bought and enjoyed. But using DLC as a way of turning people away from second-hand games is not something I agree with neither is paying to unlock content already on the disc. My last gripe is personal and is the inability to transfer DLC from account to account, rarely will this need to be done but my first play through Mass Effect 2 was on a friends console under his Gamertag, now I had to re-buy all my DLC because I bought my own console and that was highly annoying.
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This Community Content article was created by DangerousBobby, a member of our community. Community Content is your way of getting long-form writing and opinion out to the Midlife Gamer audience, an open platform to get something off your chest. For full guidelines on our editorial standards and how to create your own post, click here. The views expressed within are those of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the Midlife Gamer Staff.