The video game industry has been trying to expand upon ways to enhance and add content to software for decades. There were new features, such as adding voice acting to games in 1982 with Intellivision’s “Intellivoice Voice Synthesis Module” add-on. In 1994, Sega created “Lock-On Technology,” in which two game cartridges could be linked together like “Sonic the Hedgehog 3” and “Sonic & Knuckles” were to create the expanded game called “Sonic 3 & Knuckles.” Many Game Boy games linked together through cables or passwords to unlock new content as well.
In some cases, video game consoles had completely new add-on hardware, such as the illusive Nintendo 64DD, which used magnetic discs to add features to its cartridge-based games. But usually, these attempts were too clunky or extraneous and ultimately too consumer unfriendly.
But today, adding new content to video games has become part of the normal routine in the industry. Gamers can simply purchase and download information on their game consoles to add content onto their games, which is commonly known as DLC, or “Downloadable Content.” DLC tends to add new outfits, weapons, playable characters, missions or levels, and even new story modes. It’s appealing in concept to have more optional content to add on to, but at the same time, it’s an appealing concept that has become more exploitable by corporations.
While DLC is meant to enhance and expand upon video game experiences, it’s not uncommon for content originally in the full game to be cut out or locked away behind a paywall with the label of “DLC.” Capcom’s “Street Fighter X Tekken” had much of its advertised DLC data already on the game itself, but players would have to pay to unlock the content. Purchasing all of it together could cost up to $110, according to CinemaBlend.
It has also become common for DLC to be developed alongside a game rather than being included with the game itself. Many pre-order bonuses for video games include DLC, requiring consumers to begin paying money up front before even owning the game. Companies even announce DLC along with new games, such as Warner Bros.’s “Batman: Arkham Knight,” according to Polygon. Even after the game was released in a broken state, Warner Bros. Entertainment Interactive insisted on prioritizing the release of future DLC over downloadable patches to improve the game’s issues, Kotaku reported.
But has DLC now become a bad egg that gamers should stray away from? Despite that it has become a sensitive subject for some players, the idea of DLC itself isn’t the issue. Rather, it’s the execution that can make DLC an engaging way to bring people back to games they have already finished or expand upon their adventure. “Mario Kart 8” is an example of well-executed DLC, being developed and released a few months after the game was released on May 29, 2014. By Apr. 23, 2015, players could purchase two DLC packs for a total of $12 that were packed with several new racing tracks, characters, and vehicles.
Other games, like “Hyrule Warriors,” have struck a middle ground by releasing new updates that offer free weapons and items while releasing purchasable DLC with new characters and levels. But according to Eurogamer, the independently developed “Shovel Knight” has released entirely free DLC, with new playable characters and reworked level designs for them.
However, even if DLC is potentially good and developed separately, the topic itself is still sensitive enough to anger consumers by mere mention. The now widely well-received “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” announced plans to develop DLC two weeks before release. This DLC is to be released months down the line, but the announcement received extensive backlash, as the timing gave a heavy impression of content being cut to sell separately.
DLC certainly isn’t a bad concept and not all DLC is released as cut pieces or overcharged aesthetics. It’s impossible to deny that DLC with great value is more uncommon than most would like. But when done right, DLC is a wonderful way to expand a video game’s world and give a player reason to return to it. Though it tends to be heavily exploited now, perhaps more successful DLC releases will begin to set a greater standard for the future.