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What Is the Best Approach to DLC?
Redbrick Gaming Editor Nicholas Burton asks what is the best way for the games to make money post purchase, DLCs, season passes or micro-transactions?
There are three main approaches to how developers will support their game post-launch. The ever-popular season pass, micro-transactions, or simply update the game for free. Downloadable content has been a hot topic over the past few years, with season passes becoming more expensive than ever, gamers are now questioning the validity of the Season Pass, and with other developers exploring the free update approach, there seems to be more conflict within this topic now more than ever. Which approach to DLC is best? I will state now that those who believe there is no good DLC are wrong. There have been extremely good DLC over the years; Minerva’s Den (Bioshock 2), Shivering Isles (Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion), Left Behind (The Last of Us), Blood and Wine (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt).
The answer to this question seems obvious from a consumer point of view. Of course all of us would like all post-launch content for free, but realistically, this limits the potential of what the developer can create without further funds to help with the cost of the DLC. Don’t get me wrong, the free updates provided by developer CD Projekt Red on the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is impressive. All developers should learn from the free post-launch support they provided to players of that game (free updates after the game was released included a new game + allowing the player to continue his save after completing the game).
However, they also created two premium-cost DLCs, both critically acclaimed, that delivered on what is expected from downloadable content. It’s clear from this and other similar examples, such as The Shivering Isles (found on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion), that gamers don’t mind paying for post-launch content, if the product you get in return is good, if not great. It simply needs to be up to a certain quality that players will think is reasonable in the context of its price. If this content is within a reasonably-priced season pass, there should be no reason players should protest to SPs.
The issues arise when season passes do not have the quality content that matches its price tag. A recent example, Arkham Night. Its season pass cost £30. That’s ¾ of the games price on launch. Did the season pass have ¾ of the content found on Arkham Night? No. Did it still have good quality content, even though the quantity of the content was a let-down? No. That’s not how season passes should be done.
You then of course have a completely different approach, whereby the developers and publishers receive money through micro-transactions throughout the game. This is the least liked approach, because micro-transactions are usually embedded within an already premium-priced game i.e. Street Fighter V. Why should a player have to pay extra to progress further/quicker within a game they’ve already purchased? Good for the publisher/developer perhaps, but completely against the gamer. I know of one instance where micro-transactions are acceptable, and that’s Warframe. A free-to-play game that can be completed without any purchase whatsoever. Micro-transactions simply speed-up the process of completion. In a premium-priced game this would seem unreasonable, but for a game that’s already free seems completely fair. It still stands however that for the most part; micro-transactions should be eliminated from existence.
The answer to what is the best approach to DLC is a combination of both free updates, and premium content that is a high standard. It’s unreasonable to expect massive content through free updates, but it isn’t unreasonable to expect a high-quality standard for post-launch content, if priced correctly. The days of £30-£40 season passes need to end, as no post-launch content is worth this steep price. If it is worth that price, it should be released as a standalone game, since that’s the price of a new release. A lot of work needs to be done in this area, but leading developers like 343 Industries and CD Projekt Red will hopefully show the light to other developers and publishers, and eventually we will rid the industry of over-priced season passes, along with micro-transactions in premium-priced games.