One of the first games I ever played was Stronghold 2 for the PC and I remember rushing to the store the moment I found out it had released to pick up my copy of the game for around $30. Later on, an expansion came out for roughly the same price adding in a host of new features: new factions, unit types, buildings, etc.
The DLC Era
Skip ahead about eight years and we’ve come to the pinnacle of the DLC era. Just this past February Dead Space 3 launched with eleven DLC packs available right from the start. Eleven! Sure, they were cheap and priced at only $4.99, but still? You couldn’t maybe push the game back a week or two just to implement this content into the game when it should have been there in the first place?
But the one game that really made DLC packs so popular was Call of Duty. Ever since Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward and Treyarch alike have been pumping out DLC content like never before. Sure, it adds to the longevity of the game and keeps players coming back, but the cost for them is outrageous? What once was a $10 deal quickly rose to a $15 deal once they saw how many people were actually buying them…
$15 for a mere four extra maps to play on doesn’t seem like a fair deal to me. The other gaming giant, Battlefield, has jumped on the bandwagon as well over the past few years. Battlefield 3 launched with a free DLC pack on day one, essentially making it a part of the base game. Why did we have to download that then? And why did all of those players that pre ordered the game and were promised this exclusive content get nothing? I’m okay with adding in more content for those who’d like to take the risk and buy the game early, but in the end, they lost a lot of the content they were originally planned to get.
And nowadays, publishers like to sell a game of the year edition of their game that includes all of the patches and add on content that has come out in the past year.Battlefield 3 Premium Edition released for $50. When you compare that to the old Game + Expansion method, you basically get the same amount of content for roughly the same amount of money. The way we market things has only changed.
Free To Play Model
Then there’s the new free to play (F2P) model. While this rather new method varies from game to game, it has proven to be a great source of income for game developers and publishers alike. It essentially allows players to either get the game for free and pay for the content that they want and will actually utilize.
In the Lord of the Rings Online, arguably one of the most popular free to play games on the market right now, players have the opportunity to play the entire game for free (all the way up to max level), but the catch is that a lot of the leveling zones are blocked off for the player, forcing them to purchase individual areas of the game in order to unlock more quests if they don’t want to grind it all the way up to the max level.
On the opposite side of the game market there is League of Legends which is another free to play game that offers players around 100 champions to play with, 10 of which are free at any given time and vary from week to week. Players can either purchase a champion to keep permanently or they can wait until they unlock the one they want in game or can simply make due with what’s free to use that week. The only other thing you can buy in the game are skins, which only change the way your character looks like in-game.
While both of these models have their ups and downs, one of the major downsides a free to play model can have is itself. For example, if the game starts to lose popularity, less and less players begin to buy items for the game’s store, forcing developers to throw in more and more attractive items that often spiral out of their control and thrust the game into the pay to win idea of thinking.
DLC Is Here To Stay
The cost of gaming has evolved over the last decade to something completely new and different from what it once was before. But in the end, no matter how much of us hate things like DLC, it seems like it is here to stay for a long, long time. It’s been tried and true. One can only hope though that developers stray from the hated day one DLC content and instead opt to throw it into the “finished” game.