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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.