Issue #6 - DLC and Expansion

A short glance at the Steam Store reveals: For 1443 games, there are 556 DLC available for purchase. A large part of these are those beloved trains for various simulators, and card packs for MTG. Nonetheless, the few games that do have DLC, have plenty of them.
‘Back to the roots’ might best describe this week’s AGL. We’re discussing wording again, and on top of that we’re addressing gamers, not the industry. Complaints about DLC being too expensive, too small and exploitative in any way imaginable compared to the good-ol’ expansions are heard from the gamers’ side. Publishers on the other hand use it to give special deals and maintain a flow of income after the initial purchases dry out.
Downloadable Content – Money grabbing or content?
Here we have it again ... “content” ... Interesting, how important it became, especially with retail games. Downloadable content usually caters to the ‘fan’. The player who sticks to the game through each and every episode, through any experience they can find. Now, this is the group of players that knows most about the game and feels the deepest emotional relationship with the game.
DLC can feel exploitative. Launch-day DLC makes the player feel as if something was ‘cut out’ of the final game, since obviously there is something else that’s been developed before the release. Offering pre-order DLC as common DLC later-on makes the player feel as if he just lost some of his ‘special’-ness ... and when the common DLC contains a package of multiple pre-order DLC, this also means the player gained less than someone who buys the new DLC, although he was supposed to feel as if he had more as a ‘reward’ for pre-ordering.
Two major abominations in the DLC department. But there are more. The ‘content’ they provide is often nothing but a new texture, or maybe a new item. The few times it’s a new storyline arc, it’s implemented for ease-of-use rather than immersion. The player immediately gets access to it, regardless of his current position in the default storyline and his acquired abilities. This causes frustration upon failure and drops the entire DLC’s content almost instantly, once it’s been played (which is rather early, due to it’s availability).
This concept is not new, though – Ever heard of Expansions?
Yes, certainly, Expansions are the good-ol’ equivalent of DLC. Aren’t they? Well, expansions used to be a little more pricy, but they provided a lot more storyline, items, abilities, content as a whole. They actually majorly expanded the game, and as such deserved their name.
They did have other flaws, though. An expansion is always yet another disk needed to be secured, and causes some issues with installing. Expansions also are much easier to mistake for an actual game, due to their price and contents. And finally, expansions can be just as loosely tied to the game as DLC is.
So, neither is good, what then?
Well, DLC aren’t the abomination they’re made to be, but they certainly have some flaws and are abused to an extent where they are slightly off the track.
Expansions on the other hand, with an adaption for the digital distribution model, could change this. The original idea of DLC was exactly this, though: Move the old model of expansions to the digital distribution world. It failed when gamers became ‘dependant’ on the DLC and companies used it to get every little bit of money they could, though.
As such, it is yet again both the companies’ and the gamers’ fault for allowing this to happen. If gamers didn’t pay as much, companies wouldn’t have a reason to milk it like that. If companies gave us a possibility to alter the pricing without having to outright boycott it, there would be no reason to pay as much.
A solution is unlikely to be found, unless we manage to stick to either one of these examples: boycott or changes in pricing.

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