Why DLC is Important to the Gaming Industry

DLC, micro transactions, add-ons, expansions and all the various terms used to label content not included with the retail version of a game are phrases uttered with increasing disdain as it is increasingly apparent these are no mere fads, but the ongoing strategy for new releases.

The quality or merit of this content is not in question (because this is a case-by-case basis with some truly excellent stories and lots of duds) but the misplaced anger some gamers have at the mere existence of DLC. The added revenue publishers and developers generate off of these transactions keeps the cost of games from inflating to unfathomable numbers.

Everything seen here...is completely optional.

Everything seen here…is completely optional.

Game development is hard. And expensive. The added pressure to include multiplayer options, robust campaigns, cut scenes, voice acting, translating and development for ever-changing consoles increases the budget of every AAA game created. It’s the reason we have no more middle-tier in the industry. Companies only turn a profit off of a big blockbuster release like Destiny or a small indie-darling with a manageable team like Axiom Verge. (TL:DR RIP THQ)

Yet, these increased costs are not passed on to the consumer as in every other industry. Counting inflation, games are cheaper than they have ever been (in the US…I know costs are increasing in Canada, Australia and other markets). Even without inflation as a factor, some games are cheaper than their predecessors due to the lower physical costs of disk and digital platforms compared to cartridges.

This stagnate pricing model is only possible because of the optional DLC packages. Diehard fans of the series or those who want to support the developer more will purchase the extra content and not think twice. According to Official Science Magazine (a completely real publication) almost 99.99% of the complaints registered online regarding the unfairness of DLC come from those who don’t purchase DLC. But they still receive a full game for $60 as opposed to $100.

The counter-argument is that because DLC exists, the game isn’t feature complete. Is there any merit to this sentiment? Of all the season passes, horse armor, palette swaps, pre-order bonuses and add-on missions I’ve never seen one that is critical or appeared as more than another sidequest in the world.

Take the Batman Arkham series for example – Arkham Asylum contained minimal DLC, apparently $6 worth of challenge maps and alternate characters. By the time Arkham Knight was released, WB was asking players to spend $40 on a Season Pass that would contain ‘months of additional content.’ I have heard no one state this content was necessary for the game; actually, many have reported quite the opposite.

$70 for a game but the system is $129!? That would mean games should cost $161 today!!

$70 for a game but the system is $129!?
That would mean games should cost $161 today!!

In both examples, the player was never ‘cheated’ out of a full-feature game. The campaigns would take 10 – 20 hours to complete, not counting an additional 100 hours for Riddler trophies, New Game+ modes and challenge maps available. There was just some extra nonsense available to those who needed to ‘Be the Batman” in every possible way.

These types of consumers are important. Enthusiasts who are comfortable with paying extra for optional content are the backbones of the F2P market, which can support thousands (if not millions) of gamers enjoy the same game without paying anything (source: Team Fortress 2, Hearthstone, LoL, DOTA 2, DCUO and others).
AAA development is tapping into the same support mentality when they create additional content, and allowing the casual consumer to enjoy a game at a reduced cost.

Is DLC important to most games? No. Is DLC important to the games industry? Absolutely. It allows developers to offer games to the widest audience possible and create bonus offerings to the diehard fans. The inclusion of DLC keeps the cost of gaming much lower which is ultimately good for all players – even those that hate the very mention of DLC.

Would you still rather pay an additional $20+ to never hear of DLC packages again? Was there ever a game with DLC that was critical to the narrative or enjoyment? When do you think we’ll see the next price hike for the Industry?

Level Up, Friends!