The Rise and Fall of Expansions & DLC
I've been wanting to get some detailed feedback on the views and opinions of RPGWatch goers regarding Expansions & DLC. Since Christmas has essentially begun in our household, I have more free time than usual to attempt to properly convey what I would like to elicit.
First, let me define Expansions and DLC. This definition is just MY definition. But for the purposes of this thread, if you all can amuse me and just accept it as a baseline for discussion.
Expansions and DLC are essentially the same thing, the latter term being used more often by marketing departments as the digital era descends upon us (thus 'DLC' or (D)own(L)oadable (C)ontent) while retail with it's physical boxes (usually more associated with the term 'expansions') slowly meanders into the fog of the past.
In a nutshell, expansions/DLC typically require the 'base' game and they simply add some measure of additional content to it.
Sidenote: Unofficially, there seems to be some distinction, primarily with gamers, that suggests 'Expansions' imply that there will (or should) be MORE content than what a DLC might offer. But this difference shouldn't distract the topic of conversation in that regardless, expansions and DLC simply add additional content to a base game. For simplicity sake, for the remainder of this thread I'll refer to expansions and DLC simply as DLC.
With that out of the way, I'd like to better understand why it is that many people have a negative view of DLC. I've seen and read the disdain toward it numerous times and I already have some ideas of why people don't like it. But I often wonder if people don't like HOW the concept is being used by developers/publishers or if it is the concept itself they don't like. Or perhaps both. Or perhaps some of you have a completely different framework of how you view this subject.
Growing up along with the dawn of videogames, I always looked forward to games and any additional DLC that might come along for it. My first exposure to the concept of DLC was the Forge of Virtue for Ultima 7, The Black Gate. I had spent the better part of nearly two years anticipating Ultima 7. After spending several months playing it and finally finishing it, later the gaming world learned there would be an expansion to the game. It was wonderful news and it was universally looked forward to.
This experience isn't a clear-cut case anymore. And I'd really enjoy reading all the different viewpoints each of you here might have on the subject.
I have said all I want about this topic numerous times already. I just don't like how DLC is handled compared to past physical expansions. My opinion is not going to change anytime soon.
Let this pic and post by the Rampant Coyote explain my viewpoint.
DLC is everything that is not a part of the vanilla game.
Is it just horse armor or an expansion bigger than original game on it's release, doesn't matter, it's still DLC.
It's impossible today to categorize them all. And we can't use only RPGs in this.
I'll take Sims 3 as an example for nonRPG. Maxis makes items/stuff DLC, but also expansions that beside items bring new gameplay actions. It's not only that, they also make so called world DLC that with a new maps to play on add more items and a gameplay change or two.
But in the end it's all - DLC.
The problem we (yes we do) have with different DLC is to determine is it worth buying. In my case, I'd always buy all four F:NV DLC because those were quality stuff.
But would I ever buy horse armor DLC? No. Sadly, many did. And because of those many, instead of quality DLC, today's DLC tend to be plain useless and overexpensive junk.
And we can't go forward until ppl stop buying junk already. Will that happen? It will. Not because ppl will get smart but because ppl will lose their money needed to spend on proper games by being milked through phonegame scams.
DLC and expansions are different imo. Sure they both add content, but DLC includes pointless stuff like alternate costumes, horse armor, music etc. Prior to digital getting so popular, companies offered much more sizable content additions through expansions. Sure, I don't have to buy that pointless DLC but it does take resources away from making quality additions. When I hear expansion, I expect sizable additions.
My personal distaste of DLC stems from my standard of value per hour of entertainment. I expect to pay no more than $1 per hour of entertainment and DLC rarely ever fulfills that requirement whereas expansions like D2's LoD easily did.
Oh horse armor. I remember that. Many a Bethesda fan made that day I tell you.
DLC is a natural response to the growing online market, if companies could do it in the past, the would have. It’s not cost effective for a company to sell a 5$ physical box with one hour adventure, but its very cost effective to sell a 5$ online DLC with that one hour adventure. In the past, the only way to keep building on a successful game was to release 30$ expansions, so companies had to make longer meatier expansions then the do today.
The difference between DLC and expansion really comes down to people comparing the new system to the old one.
I don’t really think there is anything wrong with DLC, as long as it good value. The problem is that a lot of times, it’s not. When companies where making one or two big expansions to their game, the expansion would be well covered and reviewed. With DLC, you got 30 different armor packs and bonus missions. Most of the time, it’s a lot harder to figure out if it’s something you would like or not.
My personal view is that anything that take over 10 hour to play though is an expansion and anything that doesn’t is a DLC, but if you ask someone else you might get a different answer.
My general reaction to DLC is to either wait for the Gold Edition (happens often), avoid the whole DLC (if it's only MP) or even avoid the whole game (if it takes more than 30 seconds to find which DLCs I need and why; example: Civilization).
I could tolerate DLC if they bring something worthwhile to the base game. An honest 1999-like expansion pack is always welcome. Some new content for SP game? sure, but I'd rather wait for the inevitalbe bundle/Gold/GotY deal. Horse-armor, fluff/OP weapon pack, map packs for civilization? I don't mind them, if they come with that GoTY edition, but count me out.
Btw, I really dislike the idea of Day 1 DLC, since I feel that I'm being cheated out of a part of the game that should have been there in the first place. That's even more reason to wait for whole "season of DLC" to end before making a purchase.
Personally, I believe that Expansions & DLCs are pretty much the same thing,
but what differs both is the creator's / publisher's approach to both.
In earlier times, an Expansion could be considered a Bonus, something for the real fans, those who dug that main game. They got kind of rewarted. Sometimes even by an increase in difficulty (Incubation comes to mind).
At one point within the last 10 years ( I think it was rather in the second half of the last decade ), the creators and the publishers - I almost always always blame the publisher, almost never the original creators ! - came to a point where someone had the idea of using the DLC as a kind of tool not to give the players some kind of reward - no, instead to use it as an additional way to "milk" them.
This shift or change can be felt. Personally, I don't think that the infamous Horse Armor was the beginning of that - but to me it was the start of that. In my opinion, the Horse Armor was merely an experiment, an Versuchsballon, an afterthought.
And then, someone else in "the industry" must have analysed that Horse Armor.
And came to the conclusion that it was THE PERFECT way to milk people even more !
A third shift or changed to that appeared only within the recent years.
This was when another analysis took place, and someone came to the conclusion that DLCs can be used as an "indirect DRM" tool - because ONLY legit users/buyers of a game would be able to install it ! Especially if the DLC encompasses some checks whether the game spcimen was legit at all. Microsoft and their "Genuine Check" come to mind.
So, in my opinion, Expansions / DLCs changed by three steps :
1. Named "Expansion", acted like an reward to the hardcore players
2. Named "Downloadable Content", acted like an additional way to get customers buy something which is connected to that game
3. Named "DLC", acted like an indirect DRM, because checks were made to determine whether the game is legally aquired or not.
And I personally believe that it is step 2 & 3 which makes people have so negative emotions towards DLCs. Because of their usage as "tools", and the absent "reward factor", so to say.
Because DLCs of now have become mas market things, and are no longer aimed at an select group of die-hard fans of certain, special games.
For RPGs I hate DLCs, I only play them once, follow and finish the story, and then uninstall. For strategy games like Paradox's Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis 4, I love DLCs, as they usually change the gameplay or add gameplay enough so that it feels like playing a different game.
The first thing is that, contrary to the myth broadcasted over the last few centuries, firms do not try to cater to all potential customers. If so, these days, every potential customer of shoes would have shoes on their feet.
Firms try to elaborate schemes to optimize their streams of revenues and optimize their profits. Part of this process is to turn down any stream of revenue that ruin the scheme on a larger scale. Firms do not chase every dollar around, they chase every dollar that consolidates their schemes.
The current business plan (scheme) of mainstream video compagnies is:
-break even with productions costs through preorder and first week after release sales.
-use the hype momentum to saturate the main target audience over the next few weeks after release
-once saturation is reached, bring down the prices to appeal to some other target audiences (like players who buy games not because they want to play them but because buying a $60 dollar game for only $15 is such a deal! etc)
The postponer is included in the larger picture as set by marketing gurus. By postponing, they act the way gurus expect them to act. Gurus do not want their $60 as the postponer's various demands ruins the scheme on a large scheme. Gurus want those $15 or $10 to consolidate their scheme.
Marketing is about hype and to build up hype, you need an echo chamber.
More and more, games are designed to respond to that requirement. More and more, games are designed to be experiences to be shared with a larger communauty which is going to act as an echo chamber.
Distribution platforms like Steam, which make readily available social features, help the process as it makes it so easy to include features that will help to build up hype and convey it through a communauty.
For example, it can be that strictly sp gameplay game that includes Steam features to compare players one with another ("will you be the fastest thief in the world?") etc
As a consequence, it means that games are more and more designed to be social experiences to be shared.
It means that these experiences work better when the communauty is large and aroused.
It gives these games a life expectancy of three months to be fully experienced. After that, playing the game means a reduced experience.
Postponers do not want to accept the requirements of the main offer? Fine. They will be provided with a lesser version that comes for a deflated price as it fits.
They will be given the opportunity to experience the game in a period when the game has lost most of its gaming value.
Postponers' demands would ruin the billion dollars scheme. Firms do not want those $60 that mean sacrifying millions of dollars on the other hand.
Especially when they know how to get those $15 from postponers to consolidate their scheme.
So yes, marketing gurus produce the postponer. And that is exactly what they want.
But that would exclude a lot of the expansions of yesteryear. Most expansions seem to have been between 1/3-2/3 the length of the base game, and as most base-games did not reach the 10h mark, then it would be unfair to expect the expansions to do the same.
My view is that DLC=expansion. Some expansions are really small, while some are really big. And while minor content expansions were rare they did exist (this one for an example would probably have been a 4€ DLC by today's standards). The reason why they did not generally release expansions like these was because the market for them was small.
By the way, everything these days is downlable content. DLC does not mention any size of content to be labelled DLCs.
Main games are DLCs and so are any of their add ons due to digital distribution being the main outlet for PCs distribution.
Hmm, I seperate the two terms in my mind it seems. In the case of Skyrim, I consider Hearthfire to be DLC and Dawnguard and Dragonborn to be expansions. I buy all of it and could care less about a sale when I do so. I buy it when I'm ready to replay the game. If a game is on the fringe of what I play, I wait for game of the year versions. If it is a pure crpg, I'll buy it all when I'm ready to play. For instance, I started playing Skyrim earlier this month. I didn't own Dragonborn and could care less about Heartfire, but I bought both to bring the game up to date for this playthrough.
I thought I'd tackle this from a purchaser point of view, maybe helping to illustrate Chien's idea. I don't wait for sales on anything I want. If I see a sale and it is something that I may play someday, I'll bite. If it wasn't for the pricewatch thread, I would never know about sales, because I don't look :) Games are my hobby, and I pay full price gladly in the hopes of promoting more games.
I think the real trick is in patience. It's in waiting for the publisher to start selling the entire game package on Steam, game + DLC's, for the same cost as the original base game or less. Of course, who wants to wait a year or two…:-/
I don't have a negative opinion of DLC in the same way I don't have a negative opinion of capitalism.
Capitalism would have been a fine economic system if people were different. But people are people, so a system that's so easily exploitable will be exploited. That's just how it is.
I do have a very negative opinion about how people exploit systems and concepts to maxmise personal gain.
The problem with DLC is precisely that it can be anything - and as such, it's much easier to manipulate and market as something it's not.
Expansions used to have significant content - or at least that was the expectation - and they were judged accordingly. If an expansion didn't have much content and didn't expand the base game in significant ways - it would be deemed a bad expansion.
DLC has no inherent quantity or expectation of quality - and as such, it's much easier to convince people that it's worth it. It can be anything - and everyone will have their own completely subjective opinion about every kind of DLC. There's really no way to review DLC and approach anything remotely objective.
There ARE people who're fine with paying 5$ for a couple of in-game items and a new virtual chair. No one can say it's not worth it.
So, DLC isn't a problem in itself - and it can easily represent something matching a true expansion. But it's very rare - and the reason is that true value for money will result in smaller returns for the business people.
DLC, for the business person, is the perfect opportunity to minimise cost and maxmise revenue. All you need is a reasonably strong franchise or "base" - and you can use the impulse-level cost of DLC to manipulate your audience to buy pretty much anything. Once you have a solid fanbase - you can essentially print your own money by spitting out trivial content at impulse-level prices.
With the right systems and infrastructure, you can create content with almost no effort at all - and since people will buy a turd if it says "Call of Duty" or "FIFA" - you're all set for quite a while.
You can even set up the infrastructure for the money you can expect to get from the initial sales of the base game. The fact that you sell "new content" that was already produced or already ready to be produced at the click of a button is never going to be known to your audience anyway.
So, you tell me, is that a good or a bad thing for the consumer? If you don't have a problem with this, then it's not a bad thing. Hardly a good thing, either - though.
You can open up a shop, having several ideas in mind - some of them even at the same time :
- Helping people
- Offering people a service
- Using the shop as a tool to gain more money, personally
- Using the shop as means to exploit people by creating unnatural desires in them to buy things, thus make them kind of addicted
and so on.
The change in Philosophy occurred at one point in the past - or has it always been there ?
However, nowadays, one can say that the bigger tzhe company/fiorm, the more is is only serving one purpose : Exploiting customer's purse and amassing money into the direction of the shareholders & top positions within that firm.
This is the change in Philosophy :
No more is the customer the center of the firm development,
but the money is.
All the firm's actions are centered around the question : How can this generate even more money ?
This means that customers are no more regarded as humans - but as money-bags, to put it very cynically.
Where does this come from ? This center around money ?
I don't know,
but the perhaps mopst easiest explanation would be to say it's just greed.
Greed of whom ?
In my opinion not the Greed of the workers,
but rather the Greed of the Shareholders, and the firm's top positions, since they usually hold a quite large amount of the shares.
However, no matter how you put it, in my opinion the change is there, it's that the economy is centered around money.
It's as if "Money" has become a Meta-Being, of which we are all nothing but string-puppets, and the strings are called "greed".
We need to change that to focus the customer againb, so that the economy becomes part of Humanity again.
And, right now the trend is there to even measure behaviour that should not be measured against economy values, to measure it against economic values.
One example is that cutting of school years of 13 to 12 here - simply to make pupils ready for "the Market" in much shorter time.
And it is an open secret that school learning is no more for the benefit of the pupil - it is there for the benefit of "The Economy" ( the faster they can get to work, the better for the firms ! ) , because pupils are considered "human resources" nowadays, or "work-meat", to put it more cynically.
Edit : I just found this comment (Source below) :
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