The Exploitation of DLC

Downloadable content is pretty standard fare when it comes to the games of the present. Whether it be the weekly roster update, shiny additional level, or exciting new character added to the mix, it seems as if there’s always some kind of DLC in the works for all types of new games. It’s great that every gamer gets the wealth of content he or she is due, but to receive that content the industry has been slathered in the pickled scum of DLC. Should this move from expansion packs to DLC worry us? I certainly believe so. Remember the Horse Armour DLC for Oblivion?

Yeah. I just went there.

The addictive nature of the ‘completionist’ gamer is the target demographic for any DLC. If someone is hopelessly ensnared by a title, they’ll more than likely shell out a wad of cash to grab more of that game’s content to twist through. Large DLC packs like Oblivion‘s ‘Shivering Isles’, Grand Theft Auto‘s ‘Ballad of Gay Tony’, and Prince of Persia‘s ‘Epilogue’ easily find themselves worth the $15 or $20 since they require more time and contain more content than some full games (it doesn’t hurt that their quality is much better than most games, either). Sometimes though, that large value price point isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. Smaller character packs or weapon expansions can sometimes be the cure to a game’s stagnation – but not always. This is where most of the problems with DLC begin. Like I said above: Horse Armour.

I’m not against DLC in general, but I am against the shovelware approach of doling out as much content as possible with little thought about price versus quality. I keep referencing the Horse Armour from Oblivion, for good reason. When companies want you to continue playing their game they craft DLC, then DLC should be making you happy. That Horse Armour cost around two dollars for an update that you wouldn’t have known only offered some basic aesthetic value until well after your purchase. Sure it’s just a measly amount, but DLC comes in tidal waves and eventually it adds up… fast.

When Gears of War 2 hit stores, I was entranced. Being a gigantic Gears addict, I bought the game opening day and played for a grotesque amount of time. Eventually Epic would release waves of DLC that gave us additional maps. At first it seemed great, but then they came out with another pack, and soon after that they came out with another one. It was at this point I realised I had spent well beyond $100 on Gears of War 2. That opened my eyes. The maps weren’t great, and sometimes they wouldn’t even appear in the normal rotation, which got me increasingly fed up with the game because of mechanic issues. Yet I still bought the content add-ons hoping that something might change the game for the better. Like these maps, there’s absolutely no way to tell if DLC is worth it unless you purchase it blindly. Yes, waiting for a review of the content is nice but it’s rare that DLC for every game out there gets the criticism its fans require. Speaking of which…


Enter Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. The Xbox Live Arcade exclusive had people pretty excited at last year’s E3, and when it finally released it didn’t impress too well. Coming from a Castlevania devotee, that should mean something, and yet regardless of the reception that went down – I bought the damn game. I had some fun, sure, but the title soon found its way into the abyssal depths of digital limbo in my 360’s hard-drive. Since it was a giant pile of fan service, I found it odd I couldn’t play as certain Castlevania characters or visit classic levels you’d think would have found their way into the game. Well, I’ll bet you’ll never guess that Konami was saving them for DLC, right?

The most ridiculous thing about this round of content was that Konami was expecting people to pay for each additional level as well as each additional character. If you include the cost of the game (which was $15), added all the levels and characters, Harmony of Despair would easily cost well over $50, and it’s nowhere near worth it. Konami even has music packs you can purchase for 160 Microsoft Astral Awareness points, making this number even more disgusting. The worst part, though, is that even now there’s no way to tell if these levels and characters are worth their asking price. Big name websites haven’t even looked at some of this content, so the only way is to take people’s word for it or to watch someone play the game on YouTube. That’s not the ideal way of things.

Some DLC is definitely worth it, especially if you continually come back for more. Mega Man 10 is one of those games I constantly revisit, and one particular piece of DLC is exceptionally worth its asking price. For 160 Microsoft Obliteration Tokens you can play through the entire game as Bass. That’s just about two dollars to play a unique character that changes the game in numerous ways. It’s not the meatiest content out there, but it’s an excellent example of DLC that does its job correctly and well.

DLC will forever remain a part of modern day gaming – and that’s a great thing – but companies need to do a better job of showcasing their downloadable wares. For the current asking price of DLC with absolutely zero chance of a refund, it’s extremely important that gamers know what they’re getting without always having to do strenuous exercises online to get their answers. Maybe the new Mortal Kombat will be the catalyst to a new DLC revolution. Somehow, I doubt it.

Have you ever been gypped by DLC you bought? What’s been the best/worst DLC purchase you’ve made?