I should start by saying that product value is ultimately a form of perception. It is different from person to person, and there are no industrial standards whatsoever for the empirical measurement of value - even for products other than video games. In other words, value is subjective, and it would be rare indeed for everyone to see eye-to-eye on this matter.
Now, on to the subject matter of DLC.
FORMERLY EXPANSION PACKS
The way I see it, DLC packages are the evolution of expansion packs of yore. They do practically do the same thing: add content to an existing game, albeit with an asking price. Previously, expansion packs are sold as physical packages that are quite useless without the original - sometimes even the disc from the original package is needed (and not just the installation of the original game), if the installer has some particularly irksome copy protection measures.
DLC has not changed this by much.
At least ugly and vague checklists are gone from the range of promotion methods for DLCs.
In other words, DLC packages still need the original game to play (apparently), and therefore, if there is any value to be seen, it can only be seen by those who already have licenses for the original game packages.
Anybody else may just see it as nickel-and-diming of those who have the licenses.
DLC MUST ADDS SOMETHING THAT IS NOT THERE
Regardless of whether these "additions" are seen as convincing additions or ripping out of content from the original package, they are still technically additions to the basic package for the game. By the same note, this must be what DLC does - technically adding something to the existing package.
In other words, DLC packages that unlock what is already there in the existing package are of very questionable value indeed. Capcom, as a particular example of a game-maker that makes DLCs, could not adhere to this technical view of DLC.
Capcom deserves all bashing that comes it way.
Of about the same contention is content that is believed to have been intended for the original package, but apparently is not there in any way but had been packaged as DLC. This belief arises from the perception that the content that the DLC brings could have been integrated into the original package in such a manner that they would not have seemed like an expansion, i.e. they appear to very much belong to the original package and would not seem out of place.
One of the games that may have this issue is the first Dragon Age game and its Stone Prisoner DLC. Shale is a surprisingly well-conceived character, with many lines and interjections throughout the game, even at the very beginning. Personally, I have a very strong impression that Shale was intended to be part of the vanilla package of the game (similar to how HK-47 was for Knights of the Old Republic, who is thought to be the inspiration for Shale's character designs).
Guess the odd one out.
Other than the disjointed segue for the quest that introduces Shale, Shale seemed to fit into the vanilla package of Dragon Age: Origins very well - suspiciously well.
FREE IS THE BEST WORTH
Expansion packs of yore had the excuse of having to be packaged and shipped over to customers, thus ever requiring the consumer to pay for them. DLC does not have the excuse of having to be physically packaged.
Of course, one can argue that there are development costs as well as hosting and distribution fees charged by their digital distribution partners to be covered. But here are the caveats: when will development costs be broken even, and what if there are no substantial fees to be paid on a gradual basis?
The segment to the right of the break-even point is just too lucrative for DLC makers.
The only ones who would know are the game-makers and their distribution partners of course, but what is going to stop game-makers and their distributors from continuing to charge even after the development and distribution costs of the DLC have been broken even? The cost breakdowns are opaque to consumers, who won't know where their money would be going to if they buy them.
The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 DLC packages come to mind, such as Resurgence, which is still US$15, despite having being around for a couple of years.
Therefore, the worth of a DLC package will always be questionable and never certain, whatever the price, as long as there is one and the decisions that went into its pricing is kept private and unknown to the consumer.
Free DLC, on the other hand, has a much less questionable worth. Of course, one can argue that the game-makers and digital distributors may incur losses from this, but it will be hard to argue that 'free' is not the best value that a customer can have for a DLC package.
AND NOW - PLEASE AFFORD ME SOME GRIPING
No, I am not going to gripe about how DLCs are evil and such. In fact, I am quite receptive of DLC - especially if they are free. Also, do keep in mind what I have said about value being a subjective perception.
Instead, what I will gripe about is how indie game-makers themselves are warming up to premium DLC packages. Considering that they are not supposed to be like corporate game-makers, I find it very disappointing that some of them are doing the same thing that the latter are doing, only with lower prices.
Trendy Entertainment is one of the worst of them.
Of course, most of them offer free content updates, but not all of them kept doing so - Edmund McMillen comes to mind as a disappointing example for having attached a price tag on Wrath of the Lamb, which is a DLC for Binding of Isaac.
I don't like DLC very much, but I do believe that it is a convenient way of bringing content updates to games and increasing their value. I can only wish that game-makers would consider adding more value to customers than always trying to cover costs - that's just one step away from seeing customers as just mere sources of income.
Also, as I have said before in earlier blog posts of mine, if I don't like what a game-maker is doing, I don't peruse their products - simple as that.
I never have and never will purchase DLC for games because I don't see the value in the content they provide relative to their cost. As many have mentioned already, paying for a few extra in-game items or 1-2 extra hours of gameplay for a quarter of the price of a new game or the full price of an indie game just doesn't make sense.
But what annoys me the most is when other games say things along the lines of "you must be poor if you can't afford 15$ for DLC" etc. What they don't get is that it isn't about whether you can afford it or not, it's about whether you see value in what you're buying or not. If you just keep letting companies rip you off simply because you can afford something, then they will take that as a sign that ripping you off is a simple matter and so they'll keep doing it and in turn, the quality of content in games relative to their cost will continue to decrease until it gets to a point where all of us, rich or poor, will all be losing out in a big way. It may not seem like you're losing much at face value, but if you lose a little here, and a little there, before you know it, you're losing a lot more than you may have initially realized.
I've even had debates with other games where they've admitted that they're being ripped off but say they still keep buying DLC regardless because they can still afford it so "why not?" If you ask me though, it's that way of thinking that does the most harm.
DLC was first created with the best of intentions, but when many developers saw how easily they could exploit this, things got out of control.
It's great when we do see DLC that's actually worthwhile and comes at a good price but for the most part, that's usually not the case. Sure it may be a great part of the overall story line but how can you justify spending 1/4 of the original game's asking price for about 1/10 of the content or the same price as a full on digital game?
$5 for about an 1-2 hours extra content seems fitting, not $15, done it once and will never do it again (even if it was rather fun). But yeah, instead of spending that $15 to fuel the developer's greed, why not spend it on some quality indie games?
$15 for 1-2 hours of Mass Effect 3 or Mark of the Ninja? $10 for a couple of playable characters or a nostalgic trip back to Sega's glory days?
Ultimately it's up to the consumer but if you have a problem with this, then don't support it.
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Grew up on Capcom fighters but after seeing the direction they took I instead got Mortal Kombat 9 and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift.
Square-Enix's Final Fantasy's are getting worse? Well there's Namco-Bandai's Tales series which I've always enjoyed more anyways, plus Nintendo now has Xenoblade so that's another JRPG to look forward to.
first congrats on the recognition!
if anyone deserves some on here its you
also i found your article pretty interesting and fairly close to the quality of a regular gaming site article
passion is the key to dlc IMO
passion is what makes the best games & DLC
nothing destroys artistic passion like capitalism
as soon as something sells well
the sharks in suits immediatley smell the blood in the water and rush in
ill make an example of saints row 3
there wasnt even "one" ounce of passion in the SR3 dlc
it was all OBVIOUSLY put together just to sell like cookies at a bake sell
all the sr3 dlc is 1 giant heartless,souless, passionless attempt to "capitalize" on the success of SR
you cant blame modern ceos and capitalistic money driven pigs for doin what theyve always done
but you can blame the developers for signing the contracts
leaving us with the option you pointed out
BOYCOTT (BOYCOTT ASSCREED ! BOYCOTT COD !!!)
but trying to organize a true boycott of a popular gaming franchise?
have you ever tryied to get 5 guys on xbox live to coordinate and accomplish even 1 simple goal?
imagine trying to get millions of gamers to do one thing
leaving us with the "if you cant beat em join em"
i mean really
what are we gonna do?
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-- it reminds me of recycling
--i REALLY go outta my way to recycle ALL plastic,styrofoam,etc.
--and it hurts my soul to think of all the mindless destruction of the planet that is coming from other earthling's trash habits
--but no matter how many condiment packets i rinse
--or how many non biodegradables i get my hands dirty rinsing and prepping for recycling
-- i know deep inside im helping nothing, and one day earth will have the same atmosphere as mars
--in other words?
--theres gonna be an asscreed 2013, and a 2014,and a 2015,
--no matter how much i avoid it
My advice is just wait a year for the GOTY version of a game to come out. Then you buy the game and all the DLC for a reasonable price. Patience is a virtue when buying games ha ha. A lot of people get sucked into the DLC because they already bought the game and might end up paying an equal amount of money on DLC to that of the base game. Why not instead wait and just buy the entire game again with all the DLC for cheaper? Honestly there are so many games that exist that one doesn't have to buy the newest game to be enjoying their gaming life. If you're into single-player games only, as I am, why not play games that are maybe a year or two years old and have all of their respective content available to you at one affordable price? I just started playing Dragon Age Origins which is just 12 dollars on amazon for the ultimate edition. It includes all nine dlc plus awakening. If I had bought all of those when they came out I would have paid probably over 10 times as much money. The key is to ask yourself if playing it now is really urgent. Just add games to a list of games you want to play and start from the oldest. That's what I do ha ha.
I think there will be a point in the near future when one of the big developers/publishers is going to piss people off in a big bad way. I believe that the issue of DLC, in particular, will be a focal point of this anger as consumer needs and expectations grow. Capcom's on disc DLC fiasco and to a lesser extent the ME3 ending furore is just the beginning. I can't see why I have to pay 1,600 MS points (£14/$22) for Skyrim's Dawnguard DLC when the game costs £20 new at retail and £15 second hand. There has to be some some disclosure on DLC prices, in particular the cost of producing it, but having said that they can charge whatever they want for a product they own.
You can't help but feel there has been a change in how games are made with a greater focus on add on sales in the form of DLC. There are two problems that are exacerbating the problem one is pure and simple greed and the other is the second hand games market. Solutions to both run counter to one another.
What a great f****n read this was.
@kuda001 I hate that you guys across the pond get so bent over the table when it comes to game pricing. Here in the states, Skyrim is still $60 USD new, and the DLC is $15 USD.
As for that point in the near future: Black Ops 2.
That's not a fair analogy. Cost of living here is much higher than in the states. And you should also bear in mind that 1 pound is roughly equivalent to $1.60 . So $60 is roughly about 35-37 pounds. The numbers are different, but the value is roughly about the same. You should also take into account that in the states, the average sales tax is about 8.25%... In the UK, the sales tax 20%.
I'm from the states and currently live in the UK for university. So I know the average pricing for games in both countries. In the US games average (for PC at least) between $45 and $60. In the UK they average between 25 and 35 pounds. So I know numerically it does look like we get games cheaper in the UK than you do in the states, but when you factor in the monetary exchange rates, it works out the same.
If you really want to see who pays less for things, you should check out the average cost of living in other countries. Like here in the UK.... When it comes to fuel, utilities, food, cigarettes, alcohol, transportation, (TV License - which you don't have in the states, but is required if you own a TV in the UK) and several other things, believe me, you get many, many more things much, much cheaper in the states. Trust me, if you came here, you would probably shit a brick at how expensive most things are here. One of the few things we actually do get a lot cheaper in the UK than you do in the states, is the cost broadband. Broadband is considerably cheaper here. Oh, and cell phone service is extortionate in the states. Cell phone service is a lot cheaper in the UK and comes with better data plans.
@spoonybard-hahs Oops, my bad... I misread your original post. I wasn't trying to argue with you. I was just participating in the conversation. But I misread your original post and took it the opposite way you intended. That's my fault.
@bignick217 Uh... I was making a comment on how games in Europe tend to be more expensive than in the states. Hence, "I hate how you guys across the pond get bent over the table..." No where in my comment did I complain about the States getting the shaft with overpriced games.
That said, I am well aware of currency exchanges and Europe's tendency towards higher tax rates. It's an unfair system, but obviously the publishers can't do too much about it given the fluidity or exchange rates. That doesn't mean that it doesn't suck.
@kuda001 Well, hope that in the future, more developers will be like Valve. They released Portal 2 DLC for free, and are planning more free DLC in the future. They also released the Portal 2 Chamber SDK purely because fans wanted it, but I guess that's completely different.
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@Gelugon_baat All the console cert processes are known to be difficult to deal with at best. It's pretty much accepted fact. Just because that makes The Big Three look bad might be convenient, but that doesn't make it wrong.
In a case like Portal 2's, however, I could totally understand it. The free DLC for Portal 2 was a the Perpetual Testing Initiative, an extensive set of player-creation tools for making test chambers. The toolset probably just wouldn't work well with a console, and the expensive moderation teams required to curate separate fanmade levels wouldn't be worth it - especially as Xbox wouldn't be able to access content shared with the PS3 and PC.
Also, you're forgetting that Portal 2's "Peer Review" DLC was absolutely free - and excellent, I might add.
In the more appropriate case of Left 4 Dead's DLC, Microsoft definitely pressured them to price it, since according to Faliszek, "They have to look and say, wow, we're kind of being unfair to everybody else if these guys can do that."
Anyway, if there's one company you really can't complain about when it comes to the value of DLC, it's Valve. They do what they can.
not to detract from the discussion or anything, (ok, that's exactly what i'm going to do right now:) but "segway" is one of those funny scooter things while "segue" comes from the same latin root as "sequence." i'm only pointing it out because it's something i didn't know until very recently.
anyways, i enjoyed the analysis.
i do agree with most of what you said though. just not supporting a company advice since thats not helpful.
dlc has quite a few problems but was created with good intentions originally. sometimes it costs more that what the dlc is worth. Recently alot of dlc has earned dlc the slogan of disk locked content also. ff13-2, fable 3 and many others have content that is obviously taken out of the game. i wont buy the dlc but that isn't going to send them a message. and your idea of not supporting the company is counter productive. unless you can manage a large group to boycott the dlc it wont do anything and even then your mileage will vary. especially if your market is an after thought which is true in most cases. tales and ff come to mind where we don't matter at all to japan and are more often then not just considered as convenient extra cash.
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@Gelugon_baat Your blog is promoted on the gamespot homepage under "Awesome User Blogs"
Great article, I doubt I have ever payed for DLC, maybe once for Dead Space. I just think their prices are high enough to buy a old or second hand game. I love good expansions, but the asking price for 1 or 2 hours of content its just incredibly overpriced, and its a pity, because some DLC is good, even if its just an hour. Its a heart breaker.
Nice article. Very well laid out. I don't have a problem with DLC's per se, because as you've quite well illustrated above, I see them view them in much the same way as expansion packs of old. I do have a problem with several of the tactics some companies are taking up.
1: Taking content that was completed and ready for finalization with the game and shipped with the game on disc, but instead locked out for the express purpose of selling as DLC is deplorable. Capcom, I'm looking at you. I want no part of this. When I buy a game, I want all the content that game entails at release. Not have it chopped up and pushed on to me saying "yeah you bought the game, but we didn't delivery the package, but we'll give you rest of what you already bought if you give us more money!"... Two word.... Bite me!
2: Map Packs sold with only a few maps, but sold at an extortionate price. Activision, I'm looking at you. $15 for 5 maps per pack is down right unreasonable. Especially considering how many "separate" map packs there are. (Do you remember when map packs were free. Supreme Commander is a good example. 2 map packs over course of games life. 20 maps each. Both were free!)
3: Paid for Micro-DLC... This one is simply my opinion...and a very (as Gelugon_baat quite well stated) subjective one at that. I hate these micro-DLC's that are hitting lately. I view DLC's much like expansions, therefore I think they should add substantial content to the game. DLC that for example does nothing more than give you a new outfit to where in game is a bit ludicrous. - Square Enix, I'm looking at you (Sleeping Dogs). If you want me to go around the game in a pink kitten outfit acting out a devs secret fetish, you can give that one for free.
4: Elite Service type DLC. Pay annually, get DLC as it comes out. I hate this. What guarantee do we get that we will get our monies worth. In the case of ME2, if paid once like EA's Premium, would have worked fine with only a couple
1: Give content for a reasonable price that adds significant content to the game in question and expands on a game in meaningful or quantifiable way. Bioware did a good job of this in Mass Effect 2 with DLC's such as The Shadow Broker and Overlord. Or the Point Lookout DLC from Fallout 3. I would have complained about the large amount of multiplayer DLC's (maps and characters) for ME3, but since it's all free, I can't really complain. Activision, watch and learn.
2. I have to throw this one in. I don't have to describe it... All I have to say is CDProjekt and the Witcher and Witcher 2. Nuff said... CDP, I bow to your awesomeness. That's how it should be done.
3. Pre-order bonus DLC... This one surprisingly, I don't have a problem with. I see this a marketing tool for games still in development. To get as many early adopters as possible to buy the game and help ensure the financial viability of the game. So, in principal, I don't have a problem. However, 1 rule. Pre-order DLC should not come in the form of items or abilities that give pre-order players unfair advantages over later adopters in multiplayer. You want to put it in single player, fair enough. But not multiplayer.
Torn between love/hate:
Civilization V... Quite simply, love the game. Love the Civ's. But torn between the new DLC. Not in single player, that's not a problem. Play them all I want in single player. But what about Multiplayer. They almost create a divide between players who have the extra Civ's and the ones who don't. I really don't know how describe the principal of this one. Multiplayer DLC discrepencies, I hate... But yet I like some of the content... And yet the discrepencies often affect multiplayer experiences in a negative way. Civ V seems to have made it work to an extent. But the same can't be said for a lot of other games. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking negatively about Civ V. I'm trying to describe the principal.
**EDIT** Had to cut a little due to university lab starting.
4: Elite Service type DLC. Pay annually, get DLC as it comes out. I hate this. What guarantee do we get that we will get our monies worth. In the case of ME2, if paid once like EA's Premium, it would have worked fine with only a couple bucks difference. But this is more of an exception than the rule. But in activision's elite case, you would have payed a lot more than you ever got back.
This whole subscription based DLC doesn't make sense in the slightest for the following reasons:
A: How is there any way to know that you are going to get your monies worth prior to making such a big investment other than a publisher's empty promise.
B: What happens if the publisher decides to scrap the games development of new DLC where people who've paid end up paying far more than they ever got back in return.
C: How can you make sure the publisher gets held accountable for such a case.
These are just a few of the questions I have... I could fill this page with more. This is the lowest of the low in terms of DLC sales tactics. This is one I want no part of and I can't believe so many people have bought into it. It's ripping off on a grand scale, and is rife with unenforceable what if's. Not by the gamers, nor by the law. Because technically the publisher would only have to release 1 DLC in order to say "Hey, we released DLC, you were subscribed and we delivered it as promised" Then they run with the rest of the money. I'm not saying that's what's happened. All I'm saying if that happened, what assurances and rights do you have to make sure you don't get bent over a barrel. Well, that's where I stand on DLC.
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@Gelugon_baat Ah... That's ok... Too tired. If you have any thoughts (your own thoughts obviously...not like I'm asking to spread my opinions.) on any of the DLC aspects I've posted here and want to add it to yours, feel free. At least it gets people talking... Which is always fun to watch.
@Gelugon_baat What is this?
Last decent "DLC" I have seen as of late was for Civ 5, and (in reality) was more of a traditional expansion pack. I have no issues purchasing the expansion of a game's content (if I love said game), but I do have issue with the trend in DLC's to be trivial nonsense like guns, mini-quests, or "cool" outfits... I find this to be profiteering at its worst and should not be supported by us, the gamer.
There are a few occasions I'm willing to accept DLC. I'm okay with it IF: It is free. It's not on disc and locked away as a money making scheme. Or if it does add a lot more to the game e.g. Borderlands or Fallout 3. However, I don't like if it is something very small like costumes/skill points, already on disc or gives an unfair advantage over other people. If it were down to me we wouldn't have DLC at all. It would be like the old days were you worked to unlock things. But I suppose if it is something very big that isn't on the disc and is REASONABLY PRICED or even free, then I will make an exception. Though even if it's free, it's still slightly unfair to those who don't have an account. It's not too bad for those with a PS3, but those with an Xbox 360 who have to pay money are technically being charged anyway.
Nice article though it has been covered before I still like seeing others whom mirror my own thoughts. Not to sound overly mean but any mention of Crapcom these days makes my gamer side go SSJ in rage. People and/or companies with a beyond greedy practice of shady business do indeed deserve all the bashing that comes their way!
I love this blog kudos you hit all the key points I too not a big fan of DLC or any type of package premium content where you constantly have to spend money just to keep up with other players, especially online content DLC packages whee you cant play with your friends because you didn't have any money to get the new map packs!
I really thought when Arkham City came out and they announced DLC for it, they were finally going to show how it could be used. But instead, like every other publisher, they put out 1 or two small additions and act as though they changed the world. DLC for AC in the form of episodes similar to monthly issues would be the prime use. Adding to a game/story line or starting a new story line is what DLC could thrive on. Even the way Skyrim did it - addon content . The bad thing about those two examples are the companies stopped after 1 or 2.