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Downloadable Content, or DLC as it is often referred to, is what has apparently become the “in thing” to do for game developers. Basically the practice is to release a game and then release expansions or add-ons to it over time, supposedly enhancing the game and increasing its longevity. The problem is that consumers often feel as though they are being taken advantage of in both the pricing and what the add-ons contain.

A famous example of this is Mass Effect 3, a game released by Bioware. One of the perks of pre-ordering the game or buying the game brand new was a code that allowed you access to a whole set of missions and a new character for your squad. What upset some consumers was that the code for the mission and character were already on the disk that shipped with the game and was not actually something that needed to be downloaded. This meant that those who bought the game second hand were being punished for buying used!

That has been one of the big arguments about DLC; the fact that it can be used to “punish” people who buy games second hand. Since the publishers do not see any money from the second hand purchase, for instance buying it used from GameStop, there has been an onus on them from shareholders to find some way to profit from these sales. DLC allows them to do that since it does not need to be bundled with the game itself in order to be sold.

Personally I have no reservations about buying DLC like that after buying a game as long as the content is worth it. Adding a whole set of missions or a character to a game I am enjoying seems to me to be worth $9.99 which is the standard price for most DLC. What upsets me is when DLC is not worth the money at all for things such as different costumes or maybe for a weapon or two if they are at the standard price. I do not mind supporting game companies with my dollars as long as they make it worth the entry fee.

What gives DLC a bad name though is charging for things that are already on the disk after the fact. One recent fighting game already had the characters built into the disk but the only way to unlock them was to purchase DLC for the game that unlocked them. This means you were paying for content that you had already paid for by purchasing the disk. This was not content created after the fact to extend the life of the game or entice second-hand purchasers. This was content already created and shipped out with the game that you have to spend extra money to get.

If more publishers follow the earlier example and actually come up with content that extends the game and is a true add-on then I think DLC will be a positive influence on the gaming industry. You will see your beloved franchises expanded instead of abandoned after release and the industry will see an influx of money which can go to making more stellar games. If DLC follows the other route then you will see nothing more than consumers who think they are getting ripped off and who want to spend less money on gaming. Which do you think is going to be the preferred method?

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