With the holiday season upon us, gamers around the world are eager to get their hands on the year end DLC (downloadable content) for their favorite titles. Whether Christmas themed or not, major updates are now expected around this time of year. Whether it be cosmetic updates, or gameplay enhancing additions, DLC has become a surefire method for developers to extend the life of their games while raking in the dough.
Some people revel in these updates that give their favorite games a long lifetime after their initial release, while others find fault in developers for holding content behind a paywall that could have essentially been free. It is a conundrum that begs the question; who wins from this DLC-friendly generation of gaming, the consumer or the developer?
Microtransactions are a form of DLC that are currently giving the concept a bad name. Take the newly released Star Wars Battlefront 2 for example; after being maligned by critics for having game affecting content locked behind a paywall, Electronic Arts decided to remove microtransactions temporarily. Substantial gameplay enhancements were tied to loot boxes, and major characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were off-limits to those that didn’t buy them with real money. It was a greedy ploy, and EA is diligently working to remedy the situation that was obviously influenced by the Dark Side of the Force. (LOL)
NBA 2K18 has been plagued by its microtransactions since its release. Players must utilize virtual currency to buy almost everything in game; from tattoos and shoes, to more viable pieces like player stats and abilities. Since the virtual currency can be purchased with real money, the game has a pay-to-win philosophy that hasn't gone over well with critics and gamers. Both NBA 2K18 and Star Wars: Battlefront 2 have felt the appropriate heat for these gaffes, negatively impacting critical acclaim and sales.
Some forms of DLC have their place in today’s gaming. Fighting games benefit greatly from the DLC practice, as balance adjustments, gameplay enhancements, and additional content can be patched in on a monthly basis. Street Fighter 4 and Killer Instinct were the innovators of this practice, offering updates to their base game on an annual bases at a nominal price to keep interest and replay-ability strong. From new characters, to new stages and costumes, these types of core enhancements to a fighting game are now an expected part of their legacy.
Anticipating the latest DLC for established games has become an event in itself. NetherRealm studios set the internet on fire with the character reveals for their third character pack, especially the inclusion of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It garnered hyper-renewed interest in a fighting game released months earlier, injecting a fresh revenue stream into an old game. Street Fighter 5, Tekken 7, Super Smash Bros and others have generated renewed interest in their games months and years after their initial releases with the spectacle surrounding updated announcements.
Older fans of the fighting game genre will be able to recall the way fighting games used to be updated: with a fully-priced new release. Back in the day new characters for Street Fighter 2 were released in the Champion and Turbo Editions, and Mortal Kombat took advantage of the popularity of Mortal Kombat 3 by releasing Ultimate Editions and Trilogies. The last fighting game to utilize this method wasn’t even that long ago, as Capcom (supposedly) was forced to release a brand new disc for their updated Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan.
In order to get the best bang for your buck downloadable content has become a necessary evil within the video game landscape. There will always be those completionist type consumer, who will have purchased Killer Instinct's season pass back in 2013 to play with the newest characters and enhancements upon their release. On the opposite spectrum is the jaded gamer, who was offended that classic characters like T.J. Combo and Tusk were held back from the original roster in in order to drum up interest in the second and third seasons of the game.
In the end, neither gamer is right or wrong; it’s your money, so dole it out as you see fit. It goes without saying that the completionist probably gets a lot more enjoyment out of his Killer Instinct than the jaded gamer, though. Season 3 was just completed in 2016, giving him 3-4 years of fresh gameplay for a few dollars more.