There are currently a lot of aspects of the video game industry and gaming itself that need varying degrees of improvement or repair – free to play, digital storefronts, streaming, backwards compatibility, Kickstarter, not enough new IP, delays, publisher/developer relations, a lack of a new Klonoa game – but DLC might be the one that has had the most profound effect on gaming as a whole in the last 10 years or so. And we aren’t remotely close to getting it right. That said, on the whole I think DLC is far more a positive than a negative.
There are many different types of DLC, but I will stick with the kind that Steve focused on, which is content DLC. Actual playable content as opposed to in game items or things of that nature. I really can’t see what anyone would have against having the option to pay a few bucks and get to spend a few more hours in a game world they enjoyed or continuing a story they enjoyed, rather than waiting for a full-fledged, full-priced sequel. And that’s the thing, is that DLC is completely optional. You don’t have to buy it if it feels “unecessary” to you, especially DLC that just takes place in the world but doesn’t add to the main story. Just like you don’t have to do every sidequest in a game, you don’t have to buy sidequest DLC. No, becoming a vampire in Skyrim or fighting zombies in Red Dead Redemption don’t add anything significant to their respective games’ narratives. But so what? That’s one of the fun things about DLC, getting to “mess around” in a game world you are already familiar with. What’s the harm in that? Again, nobody is forcing you to buy it.
I can see an argument being made that DLC that DOES add directly to a game’s main story, continues it beyond the endpoint of the main game, or explains peripheral events that are only hinted at in the main game and helps you to be better immersed in the world and fully understand it, are all types of DLC that ARE more or less required of you to buy. To me, that’s a little like saying you are required to buy the sequel to a game, or that you are required to buy all of the novels and comic books based on a game that flesh out the story, and so on. There is ALWAYS more to a game, or movie or TV show or whatever, than meets the eye and than is present in its base package. Unless that $60 game truly feels like an incomplete experience, and would’ve felt that way even if DLC wasn’t a thing that even existed, it’s hard to argue that any game requires you to buy the DLC. But that’s the great thing, is that it IS there if you want it. Steve said that to him, The Last of Us stands perfectly on its own without the need for DLC about Ellie’s backstory. Well he said it himself: the game stood on its own. So he got his $60 worth. Therefore, the mere existence of the DLC shouldn’t be a problem – he can just skip it if he wants, and he’s not out any extra money and won’t have his own personal The Last of Us experience “cheapened”, as he said.
Steve also mentioned being on a budget, and I would argue that DLC can be a good thing for the budget-conscience gamer. It’s a chance to pay just a little bit of money to extend the life of a game you’ve already invested time and money into, rather than having to shell out $60 for a whole new game. For instance, the $20 I spent on the Broken Steel add on for Fallout 3 had me playing that game for far longer than I would’ve spent playing a LOT of $60 games.
Finally, I could not disagree more about more games needing to be episodic like Telltale games. Wasn’t part of the fun of Skyrim it’s go-anywhere, do-anything world that you were free to explore? Would you really prefer if they had just sold you the game quest by quest? Not to mention, now they are taking all of this DLC that is potentially unecessary and MAKING you buy it because it’s just the latest “chapter” and you don’t know any better. So we’re right back where we started, instead of just keeping things as-is and giving players the option as to how much they do or don’t want to add to their experience. Because that’s just it – at the end of the day, DLC only adds to the experience. It doesn’t detract from it. You either play it or you don’t. Your game is either longer, or it’s the same length. So where’s the downside?