DLC Done Right

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I’ve posted a couple of articles on DLC add-ons as of late. Mostly, I’ve been excited about it, with some exceptions. I’ve read a few comments around the internet that states DLC is nickel-and-dime-ing gamers to no end. Heck, a few of you let me know that through Facebook. I fully agree… to an extent. Not all DLC is evil or created equal, and a few companies have been doing this right. Companies like EA and Capcom to name a few, could learn from NetherRealm, DICE, Gearbox and – well, Capcom.

Let’s put things into perspective. EA has put out an enormous amounts of DLC to the point that it has just turned to microtransactions for cheats on a majority of their titles. Not to mention their entitle sports titles line up. A couple of bucks for unlocked weapons in The GodFather; a couple of bucks for some “packs” of ultimate team “cards” for Madden, FIFA, etc. Mind you, these aren’t real cards. These are digital cards that give you boosts in the game by giving you a slew of players for your ultimate team, but just like real packs of cards, you have different chances of getting doubles, rookies, all the way up to “legends”. Not to mention you have to choose to buy different tiered packs, with the higher tiered costs giving you a higher chance of getting you better cards at a higher cost. Fun.

Then you have Capcom. A company that started doing DLC the right way with Street Fighter IV. Super Street Fighter IV was announced later in 2010 and had to be a retail purchase since it added 8 additional characters, more balance issues taken care of, and an amazing amount of community modes such as saving replays and watching replays of all the other players. It was a great way to make friends and bond with other players that were learning, wanting to get better, or veterans wanting to find themselves a damn good fight. It gave a lot and thankfully was priced at a lower $39.99 price as opposed to a full $59.99 price. Fans were pleased, though jokes of reliving through the 90s with all 5 million different versions of Street Fighter II started to come about.

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More content for a decent price coming 6 years after the original games release. This is DLC done right.

Later, you get Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. A DLC update that added 4 additional characters to the roster, more balance updates, and better community modes where you could follow your favorite player of choice in the ladders. A decent update, but at what cost? Thankfully, they only asked for $15, a decent price for an add on to a four year old game. Fans were again pleased, though the jokes continued.

If you look at the outcome of spending, it’s really not all that bad. If you were a day one adopter of Street Fighter IV, up to this day you would have spent $115 on the game; $60 for SFIV vanilla, $40 for Super SFIV, $15 for the AE update. All in a span of four years. Barely the price of two full modern day console games in four years. Even better, if you came in during Super SFIV you get that halved, with your spending only reaching $55. Now with Ultra Street Fighter 4 announced, it’s another $15 for five more characters, more levels, more balance, and goodness knows what else they may surprise us with.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s not forget that Capcom tried another route, even after their success with SFIV’s superb treatment. Street Fighter x Tekken and Resident Evil 6 were their forks in the road, and they took the wrong turn each time. With each game, they planned future DLC add-ons. What they forgot to tell their customers, however, is that all of the information was already on the disc. Fans were able to uncover all the right files, put all of the information together, and see all of the DLC information ready to go. All that was needed was an “unlock” file, typically less than 100KB. Obviously, extra data for characters, sound files, textures, and other things are going to be well over into the high megabytes, if not gigabytes.

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DLC that’s already on the disc. Thus defeating the purpose of the “DOWNLOAD” part in “DLC”. Doing it wrong.

Capcom stood firm behind this tactic. There were still little programming things that went into that small file that had to be worked on, and this way customers don’t have to wait so long to download their DLC! It’s an instant download! The internet, being filled with just as many smart folks as there are idiots, called them out on their bullshit. So if 90%+ of the files for my DLC are already on my game that I’ve already legitimately bought, why should I pay more to access what’s already on my purchased disc? Fans relentlessly shook their fists at Capcom, and it seemed to work. The two respective games barely sold well nor were they held to critical acclaim due to lack of polish and quality, and to top it off, only the super die-hard returned for the aforementioned DLC content. Capcom has since finally dropped their stance on that technique, as we’ve seen with their current work-in-progress DLC announcement for SFIV, Ultra Street Fighter IV.

NetherRealm Studios seemed to have a similar scare. Unlike Capcom’s, it showed how companies can plan ahead, keep working through release, and actually add new content that has been worked on since the pressing of the game discs. The scare was due to the fact that a fan of Injustice: Gods Among Us had, like Capcom’s games, dissected the game files and found one that showed four extra character slots, each individually named as Lobo, BatGirl, Scorpion, and General Zod, weeks before even Lobo was announced officially. The difference? That’s all it was.

Obviously these things go into the planning stages way in advance. What’s the work schedule? When’s the release date? When’s press time? How much can we add before then? We need to add DLC – we’ll start work on that immediately after we’re done with the main game, and so on and so forth. For a file to show off plans but not have the actual product of said plans already on the $60 I spent on my game, I am totally cool with paying them for more work to show for it. Scorpion I was not cool paying for as part of my season pass, as I didn’t want to play as a cameo fighter that I’ve already played a billion times before, but that’s a different story for another day.

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The first four Injustice DLC characters were leaked. Rumors have it that the next three after Manhunter have already been discovered the same way the first four were.

Then there’s DICE. Which is funny that while their parent company, EA, handles DLC poorly, DICE comes up with content en masse. Five pieces of content, all delivered at a slow but steady pace in a span of two years at a price of $15 a piece. Each one arrived with four new maps, new weapons and vehicles, and other non-content extras such as dog tags and achievements that don’t really drive the game. That’s 20 maps at a span of $75 in spending – if you chose to go for them all individually. You could have also spent $50 originally for the Premium account, which gave you all of this content as it came out for that one flat price.

“$75 for something I already spent $60 on! Atrocious! Madness!” But it’s more content. It’s more work put in by the developer, and you can’t expect everything to be free ala Valve’s way of doing things. Valve makes money on their own games, on their sales, and on them selling other people’s games through Steam, which in turn they can use that extra surplus of money to give you more hats! For free! DICE doesn’t have that luxury. You may argue that Origin is the same thing, but let’s be honest, Origin will never become anything close to Steam. Not unless Valve fucks up. Royally.

The other thing you need to remember is that before, with PC expansions, they were typically $30 to $40 for an expansion! An expansion in which you might not have liked the entirety of its contents, where here you could have chosen one over the other and saved yourself some money. Or get more than double the content for $50 than in the past if you were smart enough and/or able to purchase the Premium account!

That's a lot of extra content for $75 across two years. $50 if you were smart and jumped on Premium.

That’s a lot of extra content for $75 across two years. $50 if you were smart and jumped on Premium.

Now Gearbox is obvious. If Borderlands was their swan song, then Borderlands 2 is their “Free Bird”. Fans clamored for more, and Gearbox delivered. Each and every time. Theirs is indeed expensive. Four pieces of DLC that adds more content, story, and mutliplayer mayhem, $10 a piece. Two new characters and classes, each sold separately at $10 a piece. Level cap increase, $5. That’s a whopping $65 bucks, or $50 if you opted for the season pass which gave you all four major content DLCs and the level cap increase. It’s like you paid for another whole game… and honestly, you’d be right! There is so much more content thrown into this game that it’s almost worth the price of another. Almost.

“Almost”, if you’re not a big Borderlands fan. For those that screamed for more, this was an answer from the gods. It’s more of what they wanted, when they wanted. And another important point? If they wanted. Like the games spoken of prior to this one, it was all up to you. If it didn’t sound good, you didn’t need it. Absolutely nothing required you to pay for any of this, as opposed to your typical $30 to $40 expansion where you get everything, whether or not you cared for one extra piece or the other.

The last piece of DLC for Borderlands 2 and it's by far amazing for its unique presentation.

The last piece of DLC for Borderlands 2 and it’s by far amazing for its unique presentation.

So while this piece may sound like a glorified advertisement for these games and their respective development companies, it’s more or less me championing these guys in the way that they produce their DLC:

  • Realistically working on these items through the release of the game instead of underhandedly already having it in your hands yet charging you for a key to access it.
  • Keeping an aged product alive through more content in response to good fan reception.
  • Pricing the DLC in ways that gives us, the consumer, the most bang for our buck.
  • DLC in quantity and quality at a price the fanbase is more than willing to pay, as opposed to access to a bunch of cheats and content that matters not to the gameplay only to entice the customer into giving up another buck or five for an instant buyer’s remorse.

I think if more companies stuck to this formula, you would probably hear zero bitching from the gaming populous. Actually, no, you’d still hear bitching from those that don’t know any better, it is the internet after all – but you’d get more people who would be quite happy with the product they bought. Truthfully, if you’d get more companies like Valve capable of churning out add-ons for free and without you even knowing until the next time you booted up and, voila, free update? Then yeah, less bitching.

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