Paying for DLC Isn’t a Bad Thing; Stop Complaining

I remember a time when I would pay $50 for a game, play it, beat it, and never touch it again. I’d put the disc back into the case, the case back on my shelf, and move on to the next game. But this is 2012; we live in a world where developers can add downloadable content (DLC) to extend the lives of their games. We do not, however, live in a world where added content should be free, nor do we live in a world where paying for it is a bad thing.

There’s an ugly reality in the world of videogames that some consumers fail to realize: This is a business. If you don’t make money, you’re going to get fired or, even worse, your company will go under. Just ask the former employers at 38 Studios.

So what happens when people decide they want to keep their job? They find ways to make money. Enter paid DLC and online passes. The latter has received a substantial amount of controversy due to people who either rent games or purchase them used, since they’re not getting the full game with their purchase. Well, guess what? They’re not paying full price for a game, either, meaning developers aren’t getting your money for their work. Again, this is a business and people need to make money. Which brings us to paid DLC.

The biggest complain about having to pay for DLC is that it means we’re not getting a full experience when we purchase a game. Take a look at Assassin’s Creed II, which was ‘missing’ Sequence 12 and 13. Oh, I’m sorry that a game that has us relive select memories of a past ancestor left us to sort of pick up the pieces and wonder what happened as we jump in time, only to offer us a chance to play through the corrupt sequences and enjoy the game more. Be honest, if we never had those sequences released, would we be complaining about not having a complete game? Granted, some people might have a point: we paid $60 for this game, why should we pay more to play more? Let’s discuss this.

Let’s hop into our DeLoreans, hit 88 MPH, and travel back to the last console generation. We were paying $50 a game and I was working at GameStop. Microsoft launched this little game called Halo 2 and, eventually, the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack. The Map Pack costs $20 for 9 new multiplayer maps. No one complained about paying for these maps, and the pack sold like hot cakes.

Let’s flash forward to this current generation. The First Strike Pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops made $21 million its first day of release. Five maps, $21 million; people sure do love their CoD and zombies. But it’s wrong to add over a gigabyte worth of content to Assassin’s Creed II post launch? Sure, it was originally cut from development, but that’s the beauty of DLC: You can make that holiday deadline and put in all the planned content after the fact.

As for those who cry out that they shouldn’t have to pay for it, I have two words for you: stop complaining. 1.4 million of you purchased First Strike one day one. That’s 1.4 million people paying $15 for five maps. And it’s all honky dory. But paying $4.99 or $3.99 to play more Assassin’s Creed is unheard of?

Some of you may be quick to point out that this isn’t the biggest problem you have with DLC. Instead, on-disc DLC is the bane of your existence, and Capcom is your grim reaper. As if Resident Evil 6 weren’t already bad enough, they had to, reportedly, put on-disc DLC into the title. It’s such a travesty that there’s all that gameplay you won’t have access to. What are we going to do without having this DLC unlocked? How can we live without the locked away multiplayer taunts, outfits, attacks, etc. Oh wait, none of this has anything to do with gameplay.

Now, I will level with you guys a bit: Putting characters on a disc, something that does directly affect gameplay, is nothing more than a business move to save money by not requiring people to download these characters. But at least 600,000 people bought Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which is ultimately just $40 worth of DLC. So if you’re more than willing to pay for a “new game” over paying to download the new content, can you blame them for making business moves that save them money?

The point I’m trying to make is this: What do gamers really want? Do they want their DLC to be free? If that’s the case, then considering the rising budgets of gave development, as evident by the fact that we’re paying an extra $10 for games compared to last generation (something we’re perfectly okay with, by the way), how will developers make money?

Don’t raise your pitchforks at me and point out the free Left 4 Dead content Valve has put out on PC; how many of you PC gamers own the physical box of any modern Valve game? They’re saving plenty of money by simply releasing their products digitally, allowing them to be able to afford free DLC.

Maybe you don’t want your DLC to be something that “should have been” in the final version of a game? If that’s a case, stop bitching about delays. Does it suck that we’re not currently playing BioShock Infinite? You bet. Will be worth the wait? You’d better fucking believe it.

Maybe you’re tired of your on-disc DLC? Stop buying bad games with these features. But are you tired of spending money for more content after you beat a game, especially if it’s legitimate content? Then that’s too bad, I guess you don’t really like extending the shelf life of your favorite games.

  • Michael Garibaldi

    Yeah Jake, let’s support nicke-and-dime nonsense.

    Could you be anymore of an idiot?

    • Jake Valentine

      Virtually every League of Legends player, which is of course a free to play title that lives off of micro-transactions, counters this point. If you don’t want to be nickel-and-dimed, then stop paying for character skins.

      I use GameFly. It sucks that I have to pay for online access for the games I rent. But you know what doesn’t suck? Paying a flat rate a month to play all the games I want. You know what DOES suck? The developer who doesn’t see the money trickle in because people aren’t buying their games at full retail price.

      Online passes and the such are around for the same reasons that great games like Pyschonauts aren’t around: you’re not buying, and when you are, it’s not at full price.

  • andre williams

    Look at the brainwashed idiot ! I’m going back to play all my cool pc mods i got for free and extend gameplay.

  • scified

    I don’t see why Michael and Andre are complaining. It seems more like “boo hoo I need money to do this and I don’t have it” or “boo hoo I think everything should be free because I don’t feel like paying for it.” No money to the studios = no more games. Games and DLC cost what they cost people these studios need to pay for everything they do, just like a normal company. They’re not just magic entities that live in bubbles where they have giant money trees growing in the back yard.

    • Toyashi

      The studios made money just fine in the good old days, where they were generous enough to give out free content once in a while, so I don’t see your point.

      Unless you’ve forgotten how things were just 6-8 years ago, you should realize by now that DLC is nothing but a well thought out way to exploit gamers with new content. Much of the DLC you buy today are often content that was finished along with the game, but they choose to delay it so that they can milk more money out of the consumers. The worst is probably still the day 1 DLC, but I already clarified that in my previous post, so there is no need to repeat that.

      Anyway, it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to make some weapons, maps, helment/skins or character models. (namely FPS games, since they’re often the worst at making close to useless DLC)
      I am however willing to pay 800 MS points for DLC in games like Borderlands. Here i get several hours of gameplay, plus it greatly extends the replayability and overall entertainment value of the product.
      If DLC could ever be justified, it would be by making worthwhile content and not just procrastinated data.

  • Toyashi

    I remember a time when you bought a game, beat it, put it on the shelve and BAM, a couple of months later, the developers release an Expansion pack.
    You typically payed 10-15$ for it and then you got like 10 hours+ extra gametime. Sometimes, the developers even released free patches with all kinds of awesome stuff.
    Where as today, you can pay 10$ for 3 scopes which can only be equipped on assault rifles and SMG’s (MoH: Warfighter) OR pay for Day 1 content which is already installed on the fucking disc.

  • Ess2s2

    I stumbled on this and it’s so misguided I had to stop and comment. First of all, I want to point out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the *concept* of DLC. Additional content to enhance and prolong a good game’s experience. Unfortunately due to many game companies, the *execution* of DLC is horrible.

    Nowadays, it is common practice to see “Day-1 DLC” or worse yet, “Disc-Locked Content”. Capcom and EA are both irrefutably guilty of these shoddy practices. Day-1 and Disc-Locked are both a shameless grab at the consumer pocketbook. Content that is available on the day of release is terrible because there is nothing stopping the developer from simply integrating this content into the core game during the original development process, but has chosen not to either because the publisher has forced them to, or because they are making a grab for an extra $10 on top of the $60 price of the original game. Disc-Locked content is even worse because the content IS included with the original game, but cannot be accessed until additional money is spent.

    To aggravate matters, some DLC is either useless (Toyashi mentions MOH: Warfighter’s “Scope Pack”) or unbalancing (Battlefield: BC2’s premium weapons come to mind). It should come as no surprise that both these games are published by EA, a company who has been well known for engaging in hostile business practices, both against consumers as well as other game companies. I don’t imagine I need to illustrate my point further with Bethesda’s infamous horse armor for TES: Oblivion. Let us not also forget the fact that you can buy armor in Dragon Age: Origins, equip it on a specific NPC and at one point in the story watch them leave the party permanently, taking the in-game item you bought with real money with them forever. I can’t imagine many companies getting too moist over the idea that gamers just gave them money for no reason.

    See Jake, DLC is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used to build something great and forge a lasting bridge between gamers and content providers, or it can be used to destroy any sense of goodwill between companies and consumers. Unfortunately, most of the DLC coming out of the games industry these days is acting toward the latter end.

    At the beginning of your article, you reminisced about spending $50 on a game, playing it through and then never touching it again. I remember a time when I would pay $40 for a cartridge and play it for months on end, and how nowadays I will still go back to many of those carts because not only do they hold such incredible memories for me, but because they are incredible games that were vanguards of videogame design. Great games don’t *need* DLC, just as a terrific movie doesn’t *need* a sequel. Unfortunately in this day and age, the companies in control of most intellectual properties will create needless DLC or sequels simply because they can justify an existing market that will pay for a subpar followup. As you argue, the games industry is made up of businesses, and yes, businesses exist to make money. The problem is that many of these businesses are sacrificing the trust and goodwill of the customer to make more money in the short term. You speak about businesses firing employees or closing down due to not being able to meet their operating costs. You cite 38 Studios, but in fact just as in any industry built on competition (read: all of them), companies open and close all the time. Data East, Acclaim, Sunsoft, Interplay, SNK, Enix, Psygnosis, and many others all went out of business or were absorbed by a larger company before most of us had ever moved out of our parent’s house. More recent examples include Clover, Pandemic, Rare, Sierra, and others too many to count. Nearly every one of these companies turned out high-quality products, meaning in a perfect world they would have never gone out of business or been absorbed by someone else. Unfortunately, this is far from a perfect world, and the ebb and flow of businesses in the games industry is an inevitability. Don’t use it to try and justify hostile business practices.

    Should the companies in our games industry use more discretion when wielding DLC? Absolutely. Will they? It’s doubtful, especially considering there’s always someone out there with a credit card number that will happily justify overpriced, undervalued “money-grab” content. There’s a saying in the entertainment industry: Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s good. Just because people will pay for Day-1 or Disc-Locked content doesn’t mean they should.