Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The state of DLC

           Remember when games used to come out well, you know, finished? Believe it or not this used to be the norm and I'm starting to think it was about time that we perhaps revisit the notion. Think about it, you buy a game for £40 and that's it, no further payment required to get the full experience. That sound good to you? Well it certainly does to me.

            For a good long while I was fully supportive of DLC in games, provided of course that it was of a certain quality and actually enhanced the experience but things are getting out of hand. I'm thinking particularly of that old favourite 'Day 1 DLC' that is becoming more and more popular as time goes on. This strikes me as simply outrageous, if it's available from day 1 then it was in all likelihood ready far enough in advance to be put on the disc and given to everybody included in the initial price. SimCity springs to mind as a prime example of a company (oh look, it's EA... we'll be re-visiting them later) really taking the piss with this. 4 separate packs of DLC available for £7.99 not on release day but 3 days before the game launched. The packs themselves don't contain anything near £7.99 worth of content and the attempt to pass this off as acceptable practice is downright insulting. Part of the 'justification' of this is to give certain retailers or editions exclusive content. It would appear that nobody presiding over such discussions has ever looked up the word 'exclusive' in a dictionary, they might be surprised to learn that in fact it doesn't mean 'free to some but available to others at an inflated cost'.

            Now there are certain instances when this kind of practice can be at the very least tolerable: if all the content in question is cosmetic only. Cosmetic stuff is fun, still lets you show off online with your genuinely exclusive multiplayer skin should you be inclined and most importantly does not effect the balance of the game in any way. Frequently in games now, particularly in first person shooters, these DLC packs are granting early access to weapons of gear potentially imbalancing early levels of online play and this has to stop. There is no situation where it is ok for someone to be penalised for either not being able to afford or simply not wanting a special edition or not having the specific retailer near to them.

            Don't get me wrong, in the right circumstances DLC can be a credit to the game and indeed help to do what it was originally designed to do and extend the life of your games. In the case of some DLC packs, Mass Effect 2's 'Lair Of The Shadow Broker' for example, they serve as a happy medium between a small content pack and a full blown expansion pack providing a genuinely interesting and worthwhile experience. Sadly these form a minority and far more of these releases end up being poorly thought out or very obviously just preying on fans of the license in question.

            In this age of more and more digital content it's now almost out of the question that DLC will become a thing of the past and I haven't even touched on day one patches rolling out to fix things that should by all accounts have been sorted out before release, but that's a subject for potentially another time. We can but hope that the quality of DLC improves across the board rather than it being the search for diamonds among zircons that it is now. I wouldn't hold your breath though, asphyxiation is a nasty way to go and it's the only way I see that ending.