By Jonny Stone
This summer sees the release of much-anticipated titles across every platform; from Arkham Knight to Splatoon, there are enough video games to ensure you will remain inside for the entire summer and guarantee you will get no tan whatsoever. Most of these titles, of course, are released with their specific range of downloadable content (DLC).
In short, downloadable content is further material released by a game’s publisher or a third-party to enhance the player’s experience. It’s also a great way of capitalising on a lucrative franchise and ensuring companies make the very most out of their colossally successful titles. DLC can also include varieties of skin packs, which allow players to customise characters in various guises, maps that enable players to explore territory unavailable in the original release, and DLC-exclusive levels and challenges. In many instances, downloadable content is certainly worthwhile, but that’s not always the case.
Warner Bros. has announced that Arkham Knight players can pay $40 for a season pass or $100 for the platinum edition, both of which are offering fans new content for six months following the game’s release in late June. This announcement was initially criticised, given that little information had been divulged about the package. But even when details were announced, it still felt extortionate for the content you receive: which includes more villains, new levels and the chance to play as Batgirl.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. There’s much to appreciate when it comes to downloadable content when it enhances the gaming experience and doesn’t take advantage of fans. For one, DLC affords certain titles the luxury of expanding gameplay in ways the original release could not. Strategy games, for example, lend themselves perfectly to DLC, as seen in Crusader Kings 2: the gameplay can be extended hundreds of years, the range of playable characters expands enormously and the quality of gameplay itself is improved.
And when it comes to titles like the Arkham series, it’s easy to get carried away and pay as much as is needed to get bonus features. This humble nerd may or may not have paid through the nose to ensure he unlocked “Harley Quinn’s Revenge” for Arkham City. When a game proves to be an amazing title, it’s easy to understand why developers would want to provide fans with a fresh experience or bonus features to keep them loyal to the brand.
Sometimes DLC is essential when you’ve reached the end of your game and expansion is the only option to keep playing. Rock Band and Guitar Hero took advantage of DLC, giving players the chance to download exactly what they wanted to progress further in the game. Someone calculated that it would take $91,510 to acquire all the available DLC for Rock Band. That’s commitment to the cause.
The primary criticism from players regarding DLC, however, comes from the fact that some companies charge extortionate amounts for content or packages that guarantee a gaming experience the regular release just can’t match. In February, the successful first-person shooter Evolve received a huge backlash from fans following the revelation that so much paid DLC was necessary for it to be worthwhile. This was made worse by the fact that fans had previously been assured that all downloadable maps would be free.
It’s also frustrating when DLC becomes available shortly after a game’s release – evidently taking advantage of fans’ willingness to obtain as much bonus material as possible immediately – or when the content proves to be minimal or negates the quality of the game, like when Elder Scrolls: Oblivion’s DLC featured little more than new design for your horse’s armour. Seriously. If you’re paying extra, you better make sure it’s going to be worth it.
Downloadable content can make or break a player’s gaming experience. On the whole, DLC allows players to make the most out of their favourite games, and for some the price can never be too high. Fingers crossed this summer’s titles come with packages that enhance the gameplay and don’t take advantage of loyal fans. Sure, we all want to play as Batgirl, but where do we draw the line?