The Five Commandments of DLC

DLC, or downloadable content, is big business. In theory, it sounds great for both games developers, publishers and gamers. After all, who doesn’t want the opportunity to get more out of of their favourite gaming experiences? Additional levels, extra weapons or vehicles, without the full cost of buying an entirely new title?

The game as shipped should be a complete, functional experience that does not require DLC to be fully appreciated

In practice though, DLC is a hotbed of contentious issues. A recent trend in gaming is the “shortcut” type DLC, and these seem to infuriate gamers most of all. These shortcuts simply allow you, the player, to exchange more of your real money to unlock items, weapons etc, that could just be unlocked by playing the game. These shortcuts lead to some fantastic headlines in the gaming world, where excitable journalists point out that it is possible to buy a car in Forza or Real Racing that would cost you sixty or more of your hard earned pounds (although I suspect that many games journalists find this particularly annoying because their own cars aren’t actually worth £60).

Bad DLC summed up in one photo.
Bad DLC summed up in one photo.

Unfortunately the simple fact is, the reason companies offer these items for sale is because a small percentage of people will buy them. And if you had the opportunity to sell an item like that, wouldn’t you take it? Zero effort, much reward?

To try and encourage DLC to be done right, here are my rather grandiosely named “The Five Commandments of DLC”:

1) Don’t put it on the disc

If you put locked content that you later sell access to on the disc, you look kinda greedy and stupid. If it’s ready when the disc goes out, surely it should be in the main game? And even if the content was always planned as DLC and is ready when the game is, keep it separate so players at least feel like they’re getting something for their £9.99.

2) Don’t force us to buy it

The game as shipped should be a complete, functional experience that does not require DLC to be fully appreciated. Dead Space 3 got a lot of grief for having microtransactions when it came out, but I played it and at no point did I feel I needed to pay any more money to make progress. There is one caveat to this, which is free-to-play games. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t pay a penny for the game, then paid for DLC/microtransactions should be expected and you shouldn’t be at all surprised.

3) Don’t mix your models

As a free-to-play game is free to download, it isn’t unreasonable to expect advertising or microtransactions within to raise revenue. But don’t mix these up. If you charge even 69p for a game, don’t then put adverts in it or force your players to make extra purchases to actually make progress.

The Ballad Of Gay Tony: DLC done right, loads of content, multiplayer, single player, etc.
The Ballad of Gay Tony – DLC done right, loads of content, multiplayer, single player, etc.

4) Keep the quality high

Developers and publishers: selling shoddy DLC for a high quality game may seem like a quick win for you, but you’re ultimately just eroding your audience’s faith in your next title. No-one wants to look back on a brilliant game and only remember the piss-poor DLC. It’d be like having a fantastic meal and then instead of a nice chocolate mint with the bill, you get a steaming dog turd.

5) Sell different hats

I honestly don’t know why, but this definitely seems to work.



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