Downloadable Content: More fun, or only for the Cash Cow?


By: Sarah White

When was the last time you played a new game that didn’t prompt you to download exciting new content? Though early forms of extra downloadable content have been around for more years than we realize, the prominence of downloadable content seemed to surge with the ever-expanding online capabilities of gaming systems. My question is: does Downloadable Content, or DLC really add to the game, or is it all just a money grab for companies to maintain gaming retention?

It seems as though every time I sign into a game, be it on my Xbox 360, Playstation 4 or 3DS, I’m given a prompt to download the super extra special bonus content. In some instances, the available content is a valid extension of a games campaign – giving players just a little bit more of the story they’ve been entranced by. These are the DLCs I can get behind. Although it is clear that companies will release some bonus content after a game’s hype has faded, solely to keep the relevance of the game alive. However, the way these companies do it is the right way.

Personally, I don’t purchase many DLC’s due to saving money, but when I do; it’s generally worth it. The first DLC I purchased was either one for The Elder scrolls V: Skyrim or Mass Effect 3. In both cases (for example, Hearthfire from Skyrim or From Ashes from Mass Effect respectively,) I found both DLC’s added to the overall experience of the original game.

In the case of Skyrim, Hearthfire changed the dynamic of the game in a way that was much more complex than just simply adding a series of missions or new storylines – however I would like to note that both Dawnguard and Dragonborn are excellent examples of additional storylines done phenomenally well. In an open world fantasy game like Skyrim, the last thing you would expect Bethesda to do is throw in the ability to build houses; but they did. You were able to construct homes in various holds across the map, you could tailor these homes depending on your desires – if you wanted to showcase all your fancy armour, and you could build an armoury. If you wanted to have a space to create and store all your potions, create an Alchemy tower. Though this DLC may not have appealed to the casual Skyrim players, the players that were more immersed in the world of Tameriel could appreciate these new upgrades as they finally had a place to store all their legendary items instead of throwing it in a box. Plus, they always looked cool.

From Ashes from the Mass Effect series added a new mission for the Commanders team. Yet, instead of regurgitating another level with the same enemies, Bioware actually created a new character that could be selected for other missions (provided you played the DLC before the final mission). In fact, From Ashes isn’t the first instance where the Mass Effect series used a DLC to bring in new characters, whose backstory strengthened the plot and added to the overall storyline of, if not the single game they were in, the entire Mass Effect series. I’m a huge sucker for a good plot so any form of a DLC that adds to the storytelling dynamic is always a good call. Other notable plot relevant DLC’s are Last of Us: Left Behind, which answered many questions fans had about Ellie, and Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, which added a pretty cool twist to the original game and had a fun campaign to boot.

The types of DLC I can’t get behind paying money for, are the purely aesthetic expansions. Some examples I have of this are Call of Duty and the newer DLC expansion given for Mario Kart 8.

Call of Duty map packs and gun skins are a clear example but I don’t want to beat that into the ground. So let’s look at Mario Kart 8. I mean – sure it’s cool to see Link riding a motorcycle, but is it necessary? Is Mario Kart 8 unplayable without it? These characters don’t do a whole lot to bring the game to a new level, meanwhile you’re spending $15 for this new pack. However, I know that Mario Kart 8 isn’t a plot-oriented game, so I wouldn’t expect the addition of new characters to enhance the gaming experience.

But unlike these new characters, Nintendo did a number when they added a DLC for 200cc racing. Instead of just having new tracks, which often seems to be a rehash of another past track, 200cc is nearly a game changer. The insane speed forces players to learn how to play Mario Kart again because it’s different, new and exciting.

Despite the varying purposes of modern DLC, to play with a friend online often requires you to have the same content as the other player. This is primarily seen in things like Call of Duty where if you don’t have the same map pack as your friend, playing the game isn’t as simple as it should be. Or in other games like Super Smash Brothers 3DS or Mario Kart 7 where you absolutely cannot connect with another player unless you have the exact same system update. It’s a very trivial problem, but it’s definitely a huge pain for all parties involved.

All of this being said, if DLC is done properly – I think it’s awesome. Everything any business does is to make money. Why would the gaming industry be any different? The ones who don’t simply rehash an already existing component of their game, but actually make a point to bring something new to the game, are the real MVP’s. That’s what DLC should be all about. Look at Grand Theft Auto V Online, how many downloads have there been since its release? A lot. But nearly all of them added something to the experience – whether it was a new event type (like the addition of parachuting) or a user-friendly level editor for users to make their own stages for these events. Most notable of the DLC’s was the addition of Online Heists, which allowed users to work together with their crew to pull off a series of missions for some serious cash. These updates may not be as “enhancing” as others, but they’re fun, and they’re free.

In a world that keeps pumping out exciting new content $9.99, it’s nice to see companies, such as Rockstar, putting out free DLC’s for these $80 games. The positive game additions from Bioware, Bethesda, Nintendo and Rockstar make up the terrible money grabbing garbage that far too many others put out in hopes of keeping their game relevant. Downloadable content has the power to reinvent a game once it’s released, which I think is definitely a pro of modern gaming.


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