Topic: Did Consoles Ruin DLC?

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Daniel Sims - News Editor, / 1up blogger

For some reason, one of the most disdained new features of this console generation has been downloadable content. We don't like paying a few dollars for horse armor updates or some new cars and being nickled and dimed for costumes that are already on the game disc. We look at patches as little more than an excuse for developers to ship a half-finished game and have us beta test it.

It shouldn't have been this way.

The idea of downloading additional things into your game after release was supposed to be something that extended the lives of games and made them better over time. Instead, little has changed and some games are only just now starting to come around. In most cases we've received a similar amount and quality of content, but just payed more for it over a longer period of time. The worst part is that in many ways, this has put the PC platform at a distinct economical advantage.

Some are finally starting to notice the disparity with Valve recently announcing a new campaign as DLC for Left 4 Dead. The thing is, that DLC is going to be free for owners of the PC version of the game but Xbox owners will have to pay $7 for the same content. This kind of thing has been going on for a few years now and it shows a clear separation between how essentially the same system is seen on different platforms of gaming.

All of the map packs so far released for the Call of Duty games have been $10 each to download on consoles through closed networks while PC gamers could download those same packs for free off of fileshack or somewhere. Valve's own Team Fortress 2 has received a significant amount of DLC that's been completely free on the PC. Xbox owners of the same game however have only received maybe half of that content and have had to pay for it in $5 packs.

Why is this? The idea of this kind of content delivery was scarcely heard of on consoles, so console gamers see no reason not to pay for it, but on the PC these amounts of content are usually just considered parts of patches. Furthermore, why pay for a few extra maps and costumes when modders are making and offering new ones for free all the time?

A look at places like reveals whole communities of people putting out content that much of the time is equivalent to what's included in DLC, only it's free. This goes from fan-made maps in the Call of Duty games to new campaigns in Left 4 Dead or Half-Life 2 to the choice to unlock new costumes in Street Fighter IV instead of paying to unlock the ones already on the disc.

So far only Epic has attempted to open consoles up to this massive world of content, but only Sony let them allow mod support on the PS3 version of Unreal Tournament III. Conversely, Microsoft is the reason Valve has had to charge for their DLC on Xbox instead of following their "DLC should be free" mantra. If Sony is indeed a little more open with publishers and online content, who's to say they wouldn't have let Valve follow that mantra had the PS3 version of The Orange Box been successful enough to warrant continuing support, or if there were a PS3 version of Left 4 Dead? This kind of disparity between PSN and XBLA has influenced Microsoft before.

Instead, console manufacturers have now enforced this system for DLC because they have been proven to that console gamers will pay for this content while PC gamers know better. Does this mean that they think of console gamers as a less sophisticated market? Dare I say they took advantage of an ignorant consumer base? The platform shouldn't matter, some gamers are paying for content while others are getting the same content and then some for free.

The thing that I find the most disappointing is that a working model for how and why to deliver DLC was already in place for the Xbox and PS3 to follow.

When DLC is released for a PC title, it's usually a $20 or $30 expansion pack that offers hours of new content - usually at least a whole new campaign to go along with maps, characters, and other stuff. Examples include all the expansions for The Sims games, Crysis Warhead, or the Kane's Wrath expansion for Command & Conquer 3.

Furthermore, these expansions space full sequels much further apart so that when a new game with "2" in the title is made, it isn't just the same game with a few new weapons and enemies (like Gears of War 2 for instance), but is really more akin to a platform change. The reason PC gamers are mad at Valve about Left 4 Dead 2 is because from their point of view, what that game offers looks like what you would get in a $30 expansion pack.

So far only a couple console games seem to have offered gamers new content in this way, and it's helped greatly extend the lifespans of each of them.

Since its release in January of 2007, Burnout Paradise has added amounts of content that a few years ago would've just been devoted to another $50 game, but has instead now been offered mostly for free. This has turned the game into a markedly different experience from what it was upon release and kept people from trading it in at GameStop. At this point it's hard to imagine another full retail Burnout game being made within this console generation.

What we really need to see more of in terms of DLC on consoles is stuff like the "Lost and Damned" and "Ballad of Gay Tony" packs for Grand Theft Auto IV. Instead of quickly throwing away this giant game world that they invested so much money into, Rockstar has decided to offer gamers more stories and more significant content within it. Do you really think there's going to be a full-fledged "Grand Theft Auto V" during this generation? Imagine if that kind of extension was applied to a game like Final Fantasy XIII - which Square Enix intends to turn into a decade-long franchise.

To you who mainly play on consoles, how do you feel about having to pay $10 for what your PC counterparts might be getting for free? Do you consider the PC and console platforms to be separate enough to warrant the differing treatment of consumers? If not, do you think that these are just baby steps until console gaming comes around to a more expansion pack-oriented system for DLC?

Lou Lantos -

I was quite exclusively a PC gamer when growing up, so I guess I've sampled both sides of this debate. I would very enthusiastically store away my pennies to purchase ridiculously expensive graphics cards and CPU upgrades so that my frames were a stroke quicker on Counter Strike or Quake 3 Arena. Essentially you HAD to be an enthusiast to want to commit so much money and effort to getting the best out of your experience, and that does indeed remain the dividing line.

Consoles are not platforms open to the userbase for expansion and elaboration, they're very closed and very controlled. The nuts and bolts are hidden away from any casual programmer, and to tamper with them insights an avalanche of legal crap that would only serve to widen the shit-eating grin on any company president's face.

The PC's time-honored tradition of an enthusiast, secular userbase pretty much solidifies its right to free content. People work tirelessly to create modifications of their favorite games, and they spread throughout the community before the developers themselves have a chance to get all pissy about it. It's an open playground for those guys, and there's no way to control it. Rather it's controlled internally, by the enthusiasts themselves. Democracy is left entirely to the people, free of restraints or enforced conditions, and they seem to cope just fine.

Console gaming is too lucrative and heavily moderated to ever encourage the type of scene that PC gamers enjoy, but that doesn't mean that within the boundaries laid down we can't get a little more bang for our buck. To answer the question, I feel some what hard done by to be paying extra for content that others may get free of charge. But to any casual gamer who doesn't understand the difference between a PC mod and console DLC there's no alternative, only that which they see on PSN or XBOX Live. And as such people apparently make up the ruling majority, a push towards expansion pack-oriented DLC, in the purist sense, is probably still some way away from being a concrete reality.

SnakeLinkSonic - Misanthropic Gamer

Lou knocked off a couple of great points there. I am actually digging back through in my freetime these days and I'm very much in favor of the differentiated marketing, budgeting, and design treatments that both communities an extent. I really think it's ironic considering that I'm very drawn towards the ideal that Lou is describing:

"they spread throughout the community before the developers themselves have a chance to get all pissy about it. It's an open playground for those guys, and there's no way to control it. Rather it's controlled internally, by the enthusiasts themselves."

I'm actually in favor of that 'closed circuitry' of what the console-base is known for. For me, it's has always been a fundamental nature on both sides of the fence. Coming from a someone who grew up as a console gamer, I'd much rather prefer the lesser of two evils in this case which is (I'm sad to say) a more expensive turnout.

A good example for communication here would be Half Life 2. Even with the differences in control, design, and interface, one can't really design around the principle for the gamer that will appreciate it better on consoles (and its not like that population of variants is by any means small). I certainly think there's much to be said about pricing, but not for the transition titles or franchises must make between those two communities are growing more nuanced despite the increasing similarities they are beginning to share.

I actually think more titles should be based around the defining features of the market, without any consideration for potential PC-to-Console ports (and vice-versa). I definitely don't think consoles ruined DLC, but there is a certain piggybacking to the process that the market isn't afraid of hiding (and it should be).

Lewis Denby - Resolution Magazine Editor / You Can Pay Me For This Sort Of Thing, You Know

Despite my computer rapidly ageing, and my 360 sitting proudly in the front room, I'm primarily a PC gamer. I very rarely buy console games, and as such very rarely buy DLC for the 360. Much of my 360 collection is white-label promo stuff - ie. usually stuff I'm playing for work, rather than out of choice. As such, I'm less likely to desire more content for it once the job's out of the way. And even with the great games, I'm not really one to invest in a product once I've finished what I considered the full experience to start with.

There's definitely a trend with DLC - and this is probably cross-format, not just the consoles - to offer less. On the PC, The Sims 3 offers up stuff that clearly was intended as a component of the original game, for a price. This is straying towards microtransactions, which is fine, as long as you're honest and up-front about that. Traditionally, the PC had offered hard-copy expansion packs, something consoles didn't tend to do. I used to buy these a lot, and still wait with baited breath for Half-Life 2's concluding episode (which, admittedly, I'm increasingly expecting Valve to announce as a full, stand-alone game in a new engine in the coming years. That would be awesome. Hopefully I've not unwittingly broken some NDA I'm not even party to there.)

In terms of the mod scene - and, let's face it, it primarily revolves around Valve's games - I think it's great that it's available, and free. But there's a lot of guff out there, guys. In terms of assurance of quality, developer-created DLC is always going to be of a certain standard. Even mods that people claim are good would, if given a commercial release, be low scorers. Expectations are simply different.

So I'm not at all against paying a few coins for something I know is at least going to be decent. Whether I do or not is a different matter, but I don't think it's hugely problematic. It's just a different distribution method. And while the PC has offered, and continues to offer, DLC at cheaper rates (or for free), it's important to remember PC games have been substantially cheaper than console counterparts for more than a decade (in the UK at least - not sure about elsewhere). This is no different - and I certainly see no evidence of the console market destroying the concept of downloadable content.

Jeff Grubb - Managing Editor,

It pretty much comes down to the open and closed systems, doesn't? I think Louis pretty much laid it out for us. There is no competition from mods on the consoles, there is no free alternative that is forcing the console DLC developers to keep their prices down. If I want to play the new CoD:[email protected] maps on my preferred platform, I have to drop the cash, because I play on the 360.

Now, my big problem with the console DLC is that if I want to get into a game like Halo 3, now, I pretty much have to drop another $40 bucks to buy all the DLC in order to have a satisfactory online experience. There should be some sort of staggered pricing model. If I want to go play W@W and I have not bought any of the maps, for $15 I should be able to get all of them in one fell swoop. As it is, I can't justify just dropping that kind of money to play something like Halo 3, which I am not sure I will get as much enjoyment out of.

Beyond that I don't see how consoles have ruined DLC, yet. I mean, until they start charging for everything on PC in the same way that they do on consoles, there are simply two systems. It is better than no DLC on the consoles at all.

Adelle - Writer, Podcaster, Community Manager /

When DLC began it was in the form of expansion packs and getting these involved going down to the store and picking up the box. Expansion packs were generally pricey but also contained a large amount of content. These days DLC can range anywhere from a full adventure (Oblivion Shivering Isles, Fallout 3) to nothing more then new clothes or armor for your character.
I'm not a big fan of DLC. I feel that most of the content up for purchase via DLC is in no way worth the money. Also many developers use the option of DLC to repair bugs. Gone are the days of extensive testing before a game hits store shelves. Now if a game has a glitch there is always the option of update packs to fix whatever problem was overlooked before.
I miss the days of true expansion packs. Of getting almost a whole new game added onto one of your favorites. Now we are lucky if we get little more then a new outfit.

Rich McGrath - Final Boss,

It is no secret that downloadable content is all the rage in video games right now. While DLC is still fairly new, there have various approaches to this type of additional content, that have had varying degrees of success. While Bethesda has received positive press over the DLC relating to Fallout 3, that hasn’t always been the case. The most notable DLC failure is the infamous horse armor for Oblivion which was also developed by Bethesda. The cost of the horse armor was mere $2.50; many consumers felt the armor did not justify the price that lead to mass internet hysteria. But, before the option of DLC if companies wanted to expand upon their product, before a sequel was released, an expansion pack would be developed.

Since an expansion pack was a physical item sold in stores, in the same packaging as the original title, minus the artwork. Expansions required a lot more thought, time, and most importantly had to provided enough value for a customer to shell out an additional $30.00, on top of his or her initial purchase. Selling horse armor this way, would have been as popular as E.T. on the Atari 2600 and the horse would of made its way to the glue factory. DLC is a double edge sword, it allows publishers to keep the game fresh and provide new experiences for their customers. The added bonus of not having to manufacture a physical product provides a cost benefit to the developer and a higher percentage rate of profits. The positives of DLC are both seen by the consumer and the developer. But over the past couple years some Developers have decided to be lazy and gouge their devoted fans. Guitar Hero and Rock Band’s DLC songs cost about $2.00, Epic Games releases a paid map pack for Gears of War 2 while the multi-player was still broken, Soul Calibur 4 charged to add Darth Vader or Yoda to your game depending on the version you purchased. The list goes on, and some have decided to blame this console generation for the problem. THE CONSOLES ARE NOT TO BLAME, YOU THE CONSUMER ARE THE REASON we see DLC that is as entertaining as ball in a cup. If the video game community came together and refused to buy DLC that was half assed, and not worth the price, we would see higher quality product being released. But, until that happens be prepared to see more horse armor, and map packs for games with broken multiplayer components.

Edited on by Bass_X0

Edgey, Gumshoe, Godot, Sissel, Larry, then Mia, Franziska, Maggie, Kay and Lynne.

I'm throwing my money at the screen but nothing happens!


Conceptually, DLC is certainly something good. Taking a game that might otherwise be gathering dust on some lone shelf and instead extending the life of it, there's nothing wrong with that. However, this is not how it's being used on consoles. Instead it's used as a way to bleed some extra coins from their userbase, especially from their most loyal fans. Alot of the time people are paying for content already included in the game that has just been locked away from the start or content that could just aswell been included but intentionally left out in order for it to be turned into DLC at a later date. The WiiWare FFCC games are obviously the biggest offenders here. It's the kind of practice that if it took place in a governmental system would be called "corruption".

Personally, I find this, among more and more things that publishers do these days, highly immoral. Every time a publisher does something like this, it's like they're begging me to go to piracy. And one of these days I'll listen. It's been long since the legality of things was a deciding factor for me, rather I'm governed by what's morally right according to my own moral code. Alot of the time those things mesh but sometimes they don't. Piracy is one of those areas where things are a bit murky. Generally I don't pay to be able to play games, I pay to show my support for things I like. And I don't like these DLC practices. If the publishers aren't moral, I find no reason why I should remain moral. I'll most likely always continue to support smaller companies aswell as those that doesn't abuse the DLC concept. Like for example, I really wish I liked the Burnout series right now so I could go out and buy Paradise since Criterion are doing DLC right... In fact, I almost feel they should charge for some of it considering how much they're giving out for free. But companies like Squeenix and Namco are definitely testing my patience and once it runs out I'll most likely stay that way for a good long while.

Edited on by Djungelurban


Ok, this is where the argument is insane...immoral? Give me a break. It's video games and they're in the business to make money, and really, lets look at DLC...first off, calling the Final Fantasy games DLC is incorrect by definition. They're episodic like the Strong Bad games. No one complains about that! Also, in regards to Crystal Defender, I got the whole game on XBox. That being split up on the Wii is on Nintendo, not Square. If you mean FFCC:MLAAK, none of the DLC was essential in beating the game...same goes for Capcom and Mega Man 9.

As for Call of Duty, L4D, and I'll even throw in Fable 2 which had 2 updates...hell, Fallout 3 as well...none of the DLC adds ANYTHING to the main game. COD's story isn't extended, L4D has no story period, Fable 2 had a small useless extension, and Fallout 3...well, Fallout 3's were after the main game but they were also substantial editions for lovers of the game. Don't want it? Then don't buy it! PERIOD! Point to me the one retail game that you get to the end of and it just stops with a screen that says, "To see the ending of this game, please purchase the 'ending pack' and continue to purchase our products". That doesn't happen. Everything is an add on.

Gamers just complain for the sake of complaining and that's what's destroying gaming more than anything. Who cares if you have to pay for additional outfits in SF IV? It doesn't effect my time with the game at all! OMG, I can't play the shoddy multiplayer feature of Res Evil 5 without purchasing it...whaaaaaaaaa....

BTW, The Soul Caliber argument is by far the worst and the easiest to punch holes in unless...I'm sorry...did I miss the version that had Link, the Tekken Character, and Spawn in it? OH WAIT! You had to get all three to have all three characters, but now of course, we have issues that we have to pay for a feature THAT WE NEVER HAD BEFORE!

Get over yourselves....immoral...that made me laugh.



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