My Unpopular Opinion on the Reality of Modern DLC

Along with the trend of releasing “broken games“, we have recently begun to see another trend increase lately – DLC being released that was (apparently) part of the original game.

Now, having paid a fair sum of your hard-earned cash for a new game, it’s understandable that you may be upset to find out that the $15 first expansion pack was apparently part of the original game. There’s a reason I use the word “apparently”. This is because I feel a lot of the issues consumers have with this come from the interpretation of what people say and the interpretation of the facts surrounding a DLC release.

All too often lately I see complaints like “They’re charging us $15 for a piece of the game we already already paid for!” or “This should have already been part of the game, how dare they charge us for it!”

I take issue with this thinking, purely because of the choices available to us as consumers. Let’s be clear, no matter how people put it, no DLC ever released was “a part of the original game”. The original game is the game released on day 1 – the features, modes, characters, missions, maps and everything included in the price you paid on release. The maps in Map Pack 1, the new game modes that are timed-exclusive to Season Pass holders, the new missions in Expansion Pack 2, none of this was part of the original game. If you couldn’t access it without buying something extra, it wasn’t part of the original game. So immediately the premise that “they sold me part of the original game for extra money”, is false.

We knew Halo 4 would release with ten maps at launch – the 3 DLC packs were NOT part of the original product.

 

New game releases are so openly publicised now that we virtually always know how many maps will release with the new Halo, or what modes are included in the new Battlefield. Even when we don’t have details that specific, it’s usually safe to assume that what is included in the game will be in standing with our concept of a “full” game, because developers want to get good publicity under their belts. Obviously that final judgement is down to personal opinion and concept of a “full” game, but at this point, DLC shouldn’t be involved in any opinions and the game should be looked at as if there will never be any DLC for it. If it’s not “complete” at this stage, it should be considered a bad game and there are multiple routes to go down from there – plain and simple as that. If a player expected big things from a new game because of the hype, whilst it sucks, it’s not illegal for developers to be good at marketing. I don’t need to go into the ethics of games marketing and how it can influence a player to have higher expectations of an upcoming game than it will deliver.

Two months down the line from release and the first DLC is coming out. For $15 players may get (for example) two new weapons, a new location to explore and 8 new missions. The general idea people have in their head is that after release of the game, along with maintaining the game with patches and the such, they would work on additional features and content to release in expansion packs for a further fee. Seeing as DLC is additional content that people have worked to make, players were happy to pay that price, however, this new idea of developers cutting out parts of the game and then selling them separately has flipped DLC ethics right over.

Remember ACII? Sequences 12 & 13 were “missing” from the Animus records in the game, later added as paid DLC. Some claimed they were cut from the original game to be sold to us – would they have said the same thing if they had added a sequence set after the main game as DLC?

 

This assumption is simply not true, for almost all cases. As identified at the start, anything released as DLC was NEVER part of the original game, even if the data for it was already on the disc. Now, it may well be true that the 6 new missions in Expansion Pack 1 were intended to be part of the original game, but at some point that changed and they were no longer a part of it, for reasons that are entirely their prerogative. That’s it. Players paid a price for the original game and that price did not include those 6 maps. As far as the purchaser should be thinking at that time, those 6 DLC maps don’t exist, never have, never will. Think of it like deleted scenes included in a special edition of a movie, versus the regular release. When the movie first came out, what you watched and could access on the disc was what you paid for. If you choose to pay that price plus a bit more, and go for the special edition instead, you will have access to deleted scenes from the movie – the metaphorical DLC in this case.

Granted, there are some exceptions. I’m sure that at times in the past (and probably many more in the future), DLC released really was a completed part of the game that was then removed and released at a price at a later date. Whilst the ethics of those cases are obviously in question, the developers have still technically done nothing wrong. Unless they said at some point that X mission was included in the main game, then proceeded to go against that and released it as DLC, we can’t really say they did anything wrong. We can’t prove anything was removed, we’re not forced to buy any DLC, and we knew what we were paying for when we bought the original game. If it didn’t meet our expectations, an entirely different problem unrelated to DLC, then the reviews will likely represent that and the game will go down in history as a poor game, discrediting the developer.

Was Exo Zombies advertised as a mode included in Advanced Warfare? No. Regardless of when it was developed & conceptualised, it is additional content.

 

Even with the existence of these cases, it’s not fair to tarnish every DLC release with the same brush. Whether the DLC really was content cut from the game to be sold later, content partially developed or conceptualised during the original production process, or brand new content produced post-release, it does little good to make assumptions. It harms developer reputations, clouds purchase decisions and generally adds an unnecessary disdainful edge to the video game world, which is illogical when we play games for the sole purpose of entertainment and enjoyment. The way I see it, the developer has done nothing wrong legally, morally or otherwise in releasing DLC for their game, regardless of when it was produced and with what original purpose. We aren’t forced to buy DLC and we don’t always know all of the facts.

I think we need to be more careful with what we say and move away from the idea that parts of games have been cut out of a game we paid for and sold to us separately, because they haven’t. Nothing was falsely sold, nothing was forced on us. If something was cut, it was done so before the game was finalised, and so if we still buy that final product, it’s on us. I’m not saying we have to like that some games release in an incomplete or sub-expectation state, but we do have to accept that, realistically, it’s on us if we buy a game and/or DLC. If a developer makes a game and it has a less-than-expected quantity of content for the price it’s set at, or a DLC that is overpriced in our opinion, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s a poor business decision by the developer but nothing further, in my eyes.

Clarity is everything, in what we think, in what we expect, and in what we communicate. If we want to make a claim about something, let’s make sure our facts are right before pointing fingers.

What’s your take on this?

Leave your thoughts in the comments!