Downloadable Crapshoot

One thing that has become prevalent in video gaming over the years is the concept of downloadable content. In fact, nowadays, if you’re game doesn’t have any DLC attached to it, you’re practically leaving money on the table. Of course, some companies have taken extreme advantage of this by offering “Day One DLC”, which is a fancy way of saying “we programmed this, but then cut it out of the main release to get you to pony up for the special edition”, but, for the most part, DLC is still seen as something to offer up to customers long after they’ve made the initial purchase. In other words, it’s a way to remind them to get back into a game that they may have put aside long ago, because they’d already thought they’d completed everything there was to do. And, for a low low price, they can delve right back in, finding solace in that familiar environment all over again.

Personally, I’m torn on the concept of DLC in general. If it adds something as silly as non-functional armor for a horse that half of the players will never use, then it’s just pointless. If it’s adding something drastically different in the style of game play from what the original story was pointing to, it seems to have missed the boat (but, seriously, let’s get another combat arena into this deep, thought provoking storyline). And if it’s simply a way to force multiplayer into a game that didn’t previously have (or need) it, well, then I’m just not at all inclined to give it the time of day. On the flip side, if the DLC can not only add to, but actually enhance the experience, then by all means, let’s keep getting our grubby paws on it.

Insert $10 to unlock new "Thimble" character!

Insert $10 to unlock new “Thimble” character!

And don’t think that DLC is something that’s only really been around during the console generation. Why, before it was easily downloadable, there were things called “expansion packs” (some of you older gamers might remember those. For you younger kids, just think of every version of The Sims that gets released on a semi-monthly schedule). These packs were doing largely what the best DLC of today does; enhancing the game experience by adding new content, and new options for playing through the existing content. The best of them were able to make the games better. The worst got left on store shelves, abandoned by people who didn’t see a dire need to have a specific breed of dog in their animal simulator.

But wait, before that, there were rushed sequels, or, even worse, reskins of games already overwhelmingly popular. I’m not talking about sequels that changed the overall gameplay elements, like Legend of Zelda 2. I’m talking about games like Super Mario Brothers 3, which, while improving on the graphics and adding more elements, was pretty darned similar to the original Super Mario Brothers. Not that SMB3 is really along the lines of DLC, because, well, people don’t really like it when the added content is bigger and more fully-featured than the main game, but you know what I’m driving at (or, at least, I hope you do, because I may have lost myself there a bit). And don’t try and tell me that Ms. Pac-Man was anything more than a reskinning, with different mazes.

But the concept of game add-ons certainly didn’t start with video gaming. After all, if you’re an old school table top roleplayer, you’re probably overly familiar with the concept of buying the starting books for the world you’d be playing in, only to find supplements and more adventures released long before you could actually absorb everything. Sure, you never needed to buy those additional materials to truly enjoy the game, but there was always that sneaky feeling that you might be missing out on something truly amazing if you didn’t pick it up.

Heck, I’d be willing to bet, if you go far enough back in history, you’ll even find examples of people adding tools to certain games, and potentially finding ways to charge people for their newest discovery. After all, if it cost you a couple of furs to be able to add fire to your game of “Poke Thog With Stick”, that kind of entertainment was well worth the expense.

At least, until Thog hit you with his club. But that’s extra.

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