The state of downloadable-content (DLC) in the video game industry

Developer of the critically acclaimed The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt Red, recently made headlines for its stance on downloadable content. The studio has been praised for its pro-consumer approach to a business practice that is usually surrounded with a negative stigma. They feel that small content – such as extra weapons, outfits, small quests and in-game items – should be offered for free, rather than at a premium. Projekt Red says that as gamers themselves, they understand that people are paying a lot of money for their product and want to reward the consumer as a result.
Therefore, they’re offering 16 pieces of DLC for free to anyone who purchases the game.

This raises a larger question about the state of DLC in modern gaming. Is it really such a bad thing?

Usually, gamers seem to feel that DLC is a cheap method of monetizing a game and gouging players for additional money on top of the large amount they already paid for the base game.

On the other hand, proponents of such premium content might argue that if done in a meaty, substantial way, DLC can be a meaningful incentive to prolong your enjoyment of a game you might otherwise stop playing. It also can give the developer ways to improve upon or expand what they did in the core, taking player feedback into account. It can also be used to experiment with new and creative ideas that may end up being used in future titles.

You could look at perceived "cash-grab" DLCs such as character skins, extra weapons, etc that are common in several genres such as FPS games.

In contrast, larger DLC content – additional story missions, characters, expansions, etc – are usually more positively received by the gaming masses.

You should talk about instances – like in The Witcher 3 – where DLC is done "right," and others where it is not.

On a broader more, it might also be good to compare the practices between many large gaming publishers – EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., Square-Enix, Bethesda and more.

  • I think most gamers agree with you. There is more incentive to purchase something if the consumer believes that the creator put their heart and soul into it. CD Projekt Red has shown that they aren't just in it for the big bucks, but the quality of their content as well. I recently finished the game and I can say that the game was absolutely fantastic. You could appreciate the effort that was put into every little detail and that made the experience so much better. Then you look in comparison to games like Call of Duty where they re-skin different weapons and charge two dollars each, then rehash popular modes in different settings and charge fifteen, you kind of get the feeling that the immersion of the gamer is not the priority. Recently, DLC has been abused by AAA titles to make a quick buck but 2015 seems to be the year of quality games and Witcher 3 might have marked the beginning of that. – CameronEaton 9 years ago
  • One may draw attention to a distinction between content relevant and aesthetically relevant DLC. The latter is generally smaller, consisting of weapon/character skins and largely superfluous elements. The case can be made quite convincingly that this is the least grievous form of DLC, as it is beholden to and limited by personal preference. Content such as areas, missions, and even characters or fighting moves are somewhat more insidious as they bear greater potential for abuse. The developer is capable of designing a section of their game to be more difficult, lax with content, or perhaps in its more serious form completely impossible, without the purchase of content driven DLC. This is particularly more important to multiplayer or competitively focussed games by which the winning side may be determined less by skill, and more by their wallets. Thank you for reading, -Jake. – JakeTomosLewis 9 years ago

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