The Anger in DLC End-of-Life

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 24th Apr 2012

Need For Speed: Carbon

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To the average cup-half-full gamer, Downloadable Content (DLC) is a good way to provide continued support for a video game title following its official release, which secures the place of a game in their current game play rotation list and is thought to promote a more active continuation of support for a title; many gamers believe that the DLC path widely improves the speed on the part of the developer to correct any game-breaking bugs, so bonus!

The cup-half-empty crowd's POV views DLC as a very effective -- if sometimes unfair -- path towards adding a new revenue stream to the video game market... At its worse many gamers suspect that the existence of pre-release DLC actually deprives them of content in the game that they feel should have been included as part of the base game... And forget about the issue of online tokens and licenses that have become an active effort on the part of game publishers to rake in some profit for used game sales; that's a subject for a different article entirely.

"When a game comes out and it is quickly followed by DLC that is not necessarily a bad thing," Chuck Risner, observes. "But when the DLC comes out a week after the game is released, and you plunk down your $12 and enter the code only to watch as the new maps, story content, and items -- what should reasonably be half-a-gig or more in download time -- just magically appears in the game in a matter of seconds, that is not DLC, it is you unlocking content in a game that was already present on the disc for the base game at launch, and that is just plain wrong!"

Risner is not alone in feeling that way -- a lot of gamers have expressed their irritation with the increasingly popular practice by game developers and publishers for bundling "DLC" onto the disc for a new game release and then selling access to it after the game has been purchased -- you only have to wander through online chat boards or Google the subject to find a lot of disappointed and frustrated gamers.

The LA-based gamer (and fan of Microsoft's Xbox 360 platform) considers himself a "Professional" gamer, and among his circle of gaming friends the phrase "Downloadable Content" should mean just that -- new content that you have to download to add to a game, not pre-existing content that the publisher expects you to pay extra for just to unlock it on the game disc you already paid $60 for.

"The idea of making a game and then building into it content that you intend to force the customer to pay extra for? That is obscene!" says Trina Kloph, one of Risner's gaming buddies. "How do you justify that? The rationale for charging a fee for DLC is that it costs money to develop the content, to create the new content; after a game has been finished they create teams of programers who build this new content and then add it to a game by making it available for a fee on the Xbox Marketplace.

"That makes complete sense," Kloph points out. "But that argument doesn't stand up when you had the original development team creating additional content for the original game and then require gamers to pay extra to access it. But that is not the worst part of the whole DLC issue!" Kloph argues.

"The really stinky part is what the game publishers are now calling 'aged DLC,'" she says, and her tone of voice is now very angry. "You -- the gamer -- pay all this money to get access to DLC right? OK so that is fine, but a year or two later the publisher shuts down the multi-player server for the game because it is no longer profitable for them. OK I get that," she allows, "But then they stop supporting the DLC you paid for -- and when I say stop supporting I mean they abandon it.

"So let's say you replace your Xbox with a newer model -- lots of gamers are doing that -- you get a bigger hard drive, it is less likely to red-ring, and maybe it does stuff your old console didn't -- like my new Star Wars Kinect bundle makes cute noises and is pretty cool looking. But then I go to transfer all of my game licenses and I have to re-install the DLC for my games and I discover that some of it is simply not there anymore!

"I go on LIVE and some of the games I paid for a few years ago are now not available on the service; some of the DLC I paid for? Gone! Arcade games I bought? No longer there! When you contact support they are like, well, that is no longer available on our service, sorry," she says, but her tone of voice speaks volumes about how sincere she thinks that apology really is.

When Pinball FX3 is released will the Mars FLC from FX2 (illustrated in this video) disappear as well?

Game Publishers Just Walk Away

"I don't think they should be able to do that," Risner vehemently adds. "It is like Chevy or Ford coming out with this great car in 2010 right? It gets really great gas mileage and it has awesome connectivity so when you get in your car your cell phone automatically links to the on board hand's-free controls, and you can dock your iPad to the media system and use the buttons on the steering wheel to pick songs -- you know, that sort of thing. It even has multiple USB slots so you can be charging your phone and your iPod while you use the USB thumb drive that you put a bunch of songs on and then plug it into one of them and the media system automatically imports the songs to its memory and you can now play them.

"This is an awesome car, so you buy it. Then a few years later you get an email from them telling you that they have phased out support for that the add-on items for that model -- basically the car's DLC -- you can still take it to get it repaired at authorized dealers but you ordered the special wider thinner tires and they are no longer making those tires for it. Sorry. Hope you don't need a new one!

"How long do you think consumers would sit still for that? Do you think the government would let them get away with that? Hell no! But game companies do it all the time," Risner points out.