Developers Need To Stop Announcing DLC Early

By Adam Ma on December 3, 2010, 7:15PM EDT
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There was a time, once, when announcing that a game would be getting downloadable content (DLC) was new and exciting. How much it would cost, what it would contain, and (in theory) what its real value would be was something that most gaming fans made a buzz about. That time however, was quite some time ago. Now every single game out there is coupled with either one of two things: multiplayer or DLC; and while it's nice to see modern games become ever more expansive, one can't help but shake the feeling that developers are only doing themselves, and not gamers, a favor with these early downloadable content announcements.

Sadly, there is no shortage of great examples of a company promoting downloadable content that really should be in the final release. Marvel vs Capcom 3's bonus characters (Shuma Gorath and Jill Valentine) which come immediately to mind. But there was also Mafia II's DLC which was available as soon as the game launched. Why isn't this content featured in the game initially to create a more expansive game? If the developers had these elements finished in preparation for a few weeks after, or even on the day of launch, is it really that hard to push it into the final product?

The answer is no, and this trend of releasing DLC so soon after launch is just a bad way of making a game seem like it has a much longer lifespan, and no one is really falling for it. The only way it can really be defended is if there wasn't enough space on the disc, but it's a bit weak really. A bonus pre-order character or special edition weapon shouldn't be treated the same as entire downloadable missions, or an ensemble of cars missing from the game. But sadly, there's no way to curb this sort of thing. Before it was possible to digitally update games, the final product had to be as fleshed out and extensive as possible. It meant that from one title to next, the changes had to be significant and meaningful, since players would literally be waiting for the next final product to see anything new.

Not that there's anything wrong with DLC, sometimes it can really add to the game, and making a game that can continuously be expanded upon is certainly something to aspire to. But releasing content only a few weeks after a game is released is almost completely counter-intuitive. Even worse is when companies let us know, often months in advance, that this is the plan, or right when the game releases - something which Bethesda did with Fallout: New Vegas. The purpose being to release a game, and then shortly thereafter release DLC to make the deal seem a little sweeter. Wouldn't bonus weapons, maps, and missions released months later make picking up the title again worthwhile? It certainly sounds preferable to burning out a game in under a few weeks. They shouldn't need to announce it that far in advance to make people excited, the main product should do that on its own.

It could be that developers are afraid that they simply won't get enough attention if they don't announce some kind of post-release plan; which is certainly preferable to the idea that they're simply stripping out content from the primary game to sell later on. Either way, it would be nice if developers sat down and tried to figure out new ways to promote and extend the life of their titles. After all, there are quite a few highly enjoyable games out there that release with almost no after-launch support, which gives a nice feeling (as both a gamer and a consumer) that they spent a little more time making a final product and a little less time planning ways to get more cash out of something that's already been bought. And that, not nickel-and-dime profiteering, should be the final goal.

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