Taking a Look at DLC

Taking a Look at DLC

dlc

Downloadable content is becoming big business, everyone from EA to Microsoft via Activision are getting in on the act. Things aren’t all rosy for DLC though as you will see below:

Fallout 3

The first piece of Fallout 3 DLC, Operation Anchorage, was a total failure from a distribution perspective, using the new fangled Live Marketplace which requires the user to use MS Points. This is a flawed method of purchasing anything; it would have been much simpler for Microsoft to allow people to purchase the DLC using a credit/debit card or PayPal. Further to these issues, Greg also reported that he encountered problems with save game compatibility with Games for Windows Live. Is it really that hard to allow PC gamers to pay for things via the tried and tested methods?

Prince of Persia and GTA IV

Two big games, admittedly one wasn’t as good as the other, but they both have a common trait when it comes to DLC. Their DLC is not being released on the PC, only on the consoles. How the companies involved in making that decision came up with it, I don’t know. Keeping the DLC for these two games limited to specific platforms goes against what gaming and the internet is all about. In regards to these two games, the DLC should be available to all the platforms.

Burnout Paradise

While this has only just come onto the PC, developers Criterion have done the right thing with the release of the game. They bundled all of the current DLC, be it free or premium content into one box and charged us for the price of one game. They didn’t charge us an extra £10 because there was some previously released content coming with the game, perfect. The distribution method looks like it will be easy to use too if purchasing the full game from the trial version is anything to go by. Simply head over to the in-game store, select what you want and get taken to an EA web page. Confirm that everything is present and correct and you are presented with a variety of payment options. Microsoft take note.

Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2

Perhaps the best example of how to release DLC has come from Valve, their class updates for Team Fortress 2 and the upcoming Survival Pack for Left 4 Dead are all free and are simply released as an update to the game. Using Steam Valve are able to get the content to users quickly and with minimal fuss. Perhaps the best example of distributing DLC there is.

Conclusion

What then do we see from this brief analysis of DLC? We see that many companies are not releasing DLC in a way that is favourable to the customer. Limiting the availability and using distribution and selling channels that simply just cause grief are not the way to do it. I am a realist, we can’t expect all the companies to follow Valve’s path and release DLC free of charge, but they can at least release it in a way which allows everyone to get their hands on it with a minimum of fuss. DLC is going to play a big role in the development of the game industry over the next year and companies are going to have to get to grips with it now else they will miss out.

4 thoughts on “Taking a Look at DLC

  1. I agree that DLC should be provided using a tested and approved method (like Steam), but in some cases I prefer a bundled package of all the released DLC (like in your example Burnout, or like with Knights of the Nine for Oblivion).

    That said, I’m not a real fan of DLC in general, I’d rather have the companies release a high-quality expansion, because most DLC only offers some new weapons or levels (which are usually poorly implemented in the main story) that I can use/play months after the game was released and after I completed it at least one time. Whoopee.

  2. I think its interesting that the devs and publishers moved towards providing DLC in the first place. Historically (on the PC platforms), there were major game expansion packs and community generated content.

    The expansion packs died due to the ongoing consolification of the digital games space (consoles, until recently, had no way to support an expansion), the rigors of obtaining a spot on the shrinking shelf space from retailers (“What? You mean the only people that will buy this are people that bought this other product? Only 1 in 5,000 of our customers bought the full game…”), and more costly development budgets (if it costs 20 million to make the game, and you barely break even, you often need to make an expansion for a fraction of the original dev cost and call it a sequel in order to make money).

    Community maps and mods died as soon as the industry really got it’s act together on the production and deployment of 3D art assets. There are only a handful of people that can make something passable for today’s technologies, and most of them are gainfully employed doing so with neat IP agreements that keep them from exercising their skills outside of the workplace. As these individuals begin to retire in 15 years or so, we may begin to witness the effect of these industry vets doing mods or small projects as a hobby.

    I would say the last point in time a community mod got really polished was Red Orchestra, which won the “make something unreal” contest sponsored by Epic. In this case, they managed to meet the quality expectations of players by using reproductions of real world events and artifacts; there was really very little creativity involved.

    Its interesting to note that Valve picked up the ball on providing post-launch content for TF2; they watched and waited in the wings for high quality community content to appear. When it didn’t materialize (beyond a few remade maps and a few fine new ones), they began to actively support and expand the game.

    This is the sort of customer relations play that can generate nothing but a positive buzz, whereas DLC in exchange for hard earned cash will generate good or bad press depending on the perceived value for money. Something that would be pretty cool for free (horse armor in Oblivion) and generate a bit of nice publicity becomes a PR nightmare when its milked for more than its worth.

  3. Seems to me that the two shining examples of poorly implemented DLC you’ve cited above basically boil down to one thing: bribery.

    Nobody ‘owns’ the PC platform so the platform itself can’t pay for DLC exclusivity. Consoles getting DLC, paid for or otherwise, is nearly always the result of the console manufacturers lining the pockets of the publishers and securing a deal whereby that console alone gets the goods. PoP and GTA4 content not being released on the PC? Surprise surprise. This is the publishers way of saying “we’ll support you because you’re there, but we don’t like it that much so here’s an incentive to move to an historically much less pirated platform”.

    Bethesda? Well, MS’s GFWL initiative is a cynical attempt at the “consolification” of the PC gaming platform. They no doubt paid Bethesda a significant sum of money to get them on board and I’m willing to guess that that sum likely represents the majority of the profit they’ll see from that expansion. The small remainder will be going to MS for hosting costs. This is, after all, about market penetration and branding…

    But I tip my hat to Valve and all the other companies that still have faith in supporting the PC platform in an ethically and financially viable fashion. Now if only the torrent whores would do the same thing we might actually start getting somewhere.

  4. The role of the console companies ‘bribing’ the developers to get the DLC exclusive on certain platforms is an obvious one and really damages the potential that DLC has to become a really positive way forward for the whole industry.

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