Saturday, April 7, 2012

DLC - Downloadable Controversies

There has been a lot of discussion in the gaming sphere lately about Downloadable Content, otherwise know as DLC.  In particular the topics of "Day One" DLC and "On Disc" DLC have been hotly discussed.  By "hotly discussed" I mean that there has been a lot of hate and anger being thrown at the companies who have released these types of DLC.  Two recent examples of this controvery has been with Bioware's Mass Effect 3 and Capcom's  Street Fighter X Tekken

Players are angered because they feel that DLC that is either released "Day One" or is locked away "On Disc" should actually have been theirs to play without additional charge.  They feel that something that belongs to them has been taken away and they are being forced to pay an additional fee in order to get it back.  They see this as a bad trend for gaming as it's another example of greedy game publishers trying to milk more money from their players. However, I intend to argue that "Day One" DLC and "On Disc" DLC aren't really all that bad.

The major argument against these types of DLC is that "Day One" DLC and "On Disc" DLC were ready to go when the game was released so it should be included in the game from the start.  The additional content shouldn't need to be purchased and downloaded or unlocked.  This argument supposes that the content is something that's being excluded from the game. There is the image of a greedy game publisher picking and choosing content from an already finished game and making it DLC just to try to make more money from the player.  While money is certainly an issue, this picking out parts of the finished game is rarely the case.  With a few exceptions, this content is planned as extra from the beginning, worked on separately from the core game.  It is no different than an expansion pack, or any other DLC for that matter.  It cost the publisher additional resources to make and they have every right to charge additionally for it.  Just because it happened to be ready to go before the game launched doesn't mean it didn't cost any more to the publisher to make it.  The player shouldn't be entitled to receive more content than they paid for.

A further argument made against the "On Disc" variety of DLC is that it's actually present on the disc.  This argument I can somewhat sympathize with.  The digital age has definitely challenged the idea of ownership.  It seems logical that whatever is present on the game disc should belong to the player.  The common analogy used for this argument is being sold a car but having to pay an additional fee to unlock the brakes.  However, I don't think this analogy is accurate.  Let's play out a typical game buying scenario.  A player hears about a new game that think would be really fun to play.  They do a bit of research about what it's about.  Then they go into the store a read the back of the box.  They take the game home play it and finish the game.  The player got exactly what he paid for.  He was not in anyway prevented from playing the game as it was intended.  If the player so chooses he could buy additional content for the game, which in this case happens to be on the disc already, and enjoy that additional content.  Going back to our car analogy, this would be more like buying a car and then finding out that for an additional cost they could unlock rocket boosters that were already attached to the car.  The driver still gets a fully functioning car for the money he paid for, but he could get something more for an extra fee.  Even further, if the car was actually being sold with brakes that were locked out, as long as the driver knew this when he purchased the car, there was no wrong doing on the part of the seller.  The driver knew full well that the car had it's brakes locked out, so he got exactly what he paid for.  The fact that the content is already present on the disc is irrelevant.  If the player gets the game they expected to buy they are not entitled to that additional content.

Now I'm not saying it's always wrong to complain about DLC, but if the following criteria are met, I don't think you have much of a case:

1) Is the game you purchased a full and worthwhile experience and well worth the price you paid for it?

2) Is the DLC you purchased offer you content reasonable for the price you paid for it?

3) Did you receive the content you expected to receive when purchasing the game or DLC?

If all those things are true than you really don't have anything to complain about.  You got everything you paid for and you aren't entitled to anything more than that.  If one or more of those things are not true, than you should complain about that.  The timing in which content was made and how the developer chooses to distribute that content is really not cause to complain.

In conclusion, I believe that both "Day One" DLC and "On Disc" DLC are not as bad as they seem.  Next time I intend to argue that this DLC trend can actually be beneficial to the player.