Up until the explosion of online gaming and digital content, expansions and other forms of DLC had been irrelevant. Once you beat a game, that was it. It was over, done, finished. But now, that simply isn’t the case. It’s actually become somewhat of an abnormality for a game to not have DLC. In fact, I often find myself coming head to head with a game’s newest DLC expansion before I even have time to complete the main story line itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love extra content, especially if it’s within a game I thoroughly enjoy, but sometimes DLC diminishes a game’s overall experience. Keep reading to find out what it is that frustrates me about the latest DLC craze.
I’d like to begin my assault on DLC by first targeting the smaller microtransactions, which have become commonplace in recent years. It doesn’t matter what game you’re playing nowadays. Dead Space 3: microtransactions pertaining to gear, materials, suits. GTA V: microtransactions pertaining to in-game money. Call of Duty: Ghosts: microtransactions pertaining to a skin for your guard dog. These seem like small things, but when viewed through the eyes of a consumer who has already paid $60 for what they believe to be a complete game, microtransactions only serve to frustrate the player, and here’s why. If you pay full price for a video game, don’t you expect to receive a complete version of the game? I know the gaming industry is in a bit of a tough spot right now, but bleeding the fan base doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do. If I buy Dead Space 3 (one of my favorite games by the way) I expect to be able to unlock all of the content (microtransaction content included) without having to pay a dime. I don’t care if that means having to complete challenges, earn more in game currency, etc. I expect a complete product upon purchasing my game and that simply isn’t the case these days.
Currently, the gaming market seems to be set up so that consumers buy around 80-85% of a game, leaving the rest up to microtransactions and expansions that drive up the overall price, should the consumer choose to buy in. I hate that. It’s a slap in the face to gamers who are willing to support the industry by buying new games at their respective launches. Still, aside from driving up the price, microtransactions are also incredibly good at taking the player out of the game. Again, Dead Space 3 does this perfectly. While using the in-game store, it prompts you to buy items using your real money. Seriously? It completely takes the player out of the immersive environment created upon the icy exterior of Tau Volantis because you are instantly reminded that you’re merely playing a game. The beauty of video games is that they allow the player to escape reality for a short while, but when they’re smacked upside the head with microtransactions and other DLC-related items, it breaks that overall sense of immersion.
Alright, now that I’ve covered microtransactions, I’d like to move into the realm of expansions. This argument is a little tougher to convey, because, in reality, a lot of games actually implement expansions incredibly well. For example, Borderlands 2 has released quite a few different expansion packs that are loaded with additional story lines that are both fun and immersive. These DLC packs are all in addition to a game that is already very large in terms of its scale, which makes paying the additional money for the add-ons more than worth the cost. What frustrates me is when a game releases DLC in the form of an expansion that easily could have been placed within the confines of the original campaign, story, etc. Again, Dead Space 3 commits this particular sin in a very vivid manner by means of its Awakened DLC add-on that literally continues the story (which already ends with a cliffhanger ending) right where the player leaves off at the end of the main game and ends with yet another cliffhanger ending. The add-on takes mere hours to complete, but it cost $15 when it was initially released. What frustrates me about this is that Awakened literally feels as if it should have been the real ending of Dead Space 3, but was sliced off in order to bleed the fan base for some extra cash. Considering the entire game itself takes around 15-20 hours to complete, there is no way in hell Awakened should have cost $15. When a particular DLC item ends up feeling as if it belonged in the initial game, there’s a major problem and it seems to be happening more frequently as of late.
I only have one last form of DLC to talk about and that, my friends, is the infamous season Pass. You know what I’m talking about. You buy a new game and the employee at GameStop tries to get you to cough up an extra $20 for DLC that won’t be out for months. But, it saves you money in the long run, right? Possibly, but who the hell really cares? All a season pass really tells players is that there is DLC being developed (or in some cases has already been developed) that, more often than not, should have been included in the original game. Halo 4, for example, had a season pass that allowed players to download three previously planned map packs for $20 when they became available. That’s nice and all, but it frustrates me that so many multiplayer games nowadays charge players for awesome maps that could have been included in the original game. Call of Duty: Ghosts is even worse. The season pass for the newest game in the CoD franchise costs a whopping $50. That’s ridiculous. Who in their right mind would pay $110 to play CoD? I know there are people out there who will buy a season pass, especially for a game they truly enjoy, but it still irks me that the concept of a season pass has become commonplace in the gaming industry, specifically because it drives up the overall price of the game for players who want to experience a “complete” version of the game. Whatever the hell that means anymore. As gamers, we used to be able to buy a game with the full understanding that we would be receiving a complete and polished product. Nowadays, developers can release the absolute minimum in terms of content and then push out waves of DLC to bolster their profits. It makes me sick. Well, not really, but it’s pretty damn annoying!
Because of the era in which we’ve entered as gamers, I think it’s safe to say that DLC will only continue to grow, which means we’re left with a choice. Either we give up gaming altogether due to being slighted from a content standpoint, or we find a balance and only purchase the DLC that best caters to our specific and unique tastes as gamers. I, for one, choose the latter. It may not be ideal from a consumer standpoint, but I’m not ready for a Game Over just yet.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!