DLC, a half-full glass

Selvaria k

I still remember my first paid DLC. It was Selvaria’s mission in the great Valkyria Chronicles. A that time, I thanked the Heavens for having made DLCs possible, because I had been dreaming to play this character whom I liked in the main story, but who was unfortunately on the side of the «bad guys». Five years later, is DLC still as exciting or is the dream shattered?

Bear in mind that every work deserves salary. DLC represents some work, so someone has to pay for it. Consequently, free DLC can only be an exception : it’s a gesture from the publisher. I’m saying that because I was shocked of the racket surrounding the Marie-Rose DLC in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate, which was 6€. «Too expensive» some were saying, «suckers» others shouted. A reminder in micro-economics is in order : what is a price? A price is what by which two parties exchange a product or a service and would be ready to redo it in the same conditions. In other words, if the client buys a keeps being satisfied, the price is right. There is a concept that materializes exactly that : consumer value. Consumer value is the value that each individual would allocate to a given product or service. The challenge for the publisher is to correctly assess the average consumer value to achieve the widest target possible. For example, my consumer value of Hyperdimension Neptune Victory is 135€ (since it’s the price I paid for the LE). On the other hand my consumer value of Mario 3D World is zero, because I wouldn’t play it even if I could have it for free. Consequently COD DLCs are fine. I myself find them quite expensive, but millions of people gladly foot the bill every single year. Why should I be right against the free opinion of millions? To see it from another angle, it’s just a discreet way to inflate game prices in a whole. The industry raises the stakes, up to you to call or not.

Let’s not put all DLCs in the same bag an let us explore the example of Valkyria Chronicles which is the perfect illustration of the various philosophies that surround the business of DLC. In Valkyria Chronicles II, Selvaria becomes a free DLC character. What better DLC? Even if it doesn’t make any sense story-wise, since she died long before VCII even started (but hey, who cares as long as she as boobs and that we love her?). One year later and a few weeks after the release of Valkyria Chronicles III in Japan, Selvaria appears again in a DLC pack including the character and a few extra missions for… 600¥! Price that I paid without complaining, but still a lot higher than the 0€ of Valkyria Chronicles II. Thus you have a clear difference between the Selvaria of VC1 who came later to respond to the expectations of the fans, the Selvaria of VC2 given free to reward the fans’ fidelity, and the Selvaria of VCIII purposely scheduled to raise the margin. Again, I’m not saying some of those are bad or anything, but that there are different approaches and that prejudice is wrong. In some cases, DLC are advantageous : remember Wipeout HD, this great episode of the late futuristic racer from Studio Liverpool. Instead of releasing a sequel for full price, Sony decided to offer a big DLC roughly of the same size of the base game for half price. On the other hand, how can we admit that FIFA games release every year for 70€ with so little change, like the press, very oblivious of the interest of their readers, seem to endorse? Better physics, they say. Enhanced AI, they argue. I’m sorry nut all this is merely a game update. When Call of Duty and Battlefield tweak bullet physics, kick or scope-in time, it called update 1 point something and not the next COD or the next Battlefield. 

You will probably say «ok, but those DLCs, they just have to include them in the base game!». Here we have to ask ourselves two questions. First, is the game satisfying without the DLC? Let’s take Deus Ex Human Revolution : even deprived of its extension The Missing Link, it is already a major WPRG and a masterpiece of science fiction which is more than worth the 60€ asked for it at release. Tales of Xillia is no less good without the flurry of DLC costumes that come with it, and which are hardly important to enjoy the game in general. On the other hand, do Nintendo games (which seldom have paid DLC) stand the comparison with the base games of the competition, often richer and more ambitious?

After that, you have to wonder wether the DLC makes sense in the original game. I heard complains about Drakengard 3 DLC. Those are short stories in which you play as Zero’s sister, who are your opponents in the main story. It’s not incoherent to have them separated from the main game. Sure they could wait and put it all together but games have to be released at some point. You just can’t always ask for more, because developers can’t develop for eternity. In this case, SquareEnix had to release Drakengard 3 for the holidays, it was imperative to target the shopping season and the DLCs could not be ready at that time. Same goes for the DLCs of Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, their development started well after. But you also have some questionable situations. I remember that Ubisoft had removed two chapters in the middle of the story to sell them later as DLC. Whatever you can think about it, it is not normal to go from chapter 11 to chapter 13 while you are playing the game at release. In the same logic, Wilbell shouldn’t be a DLC character in Atelier Escha&Logy. Very important playable character in Atelier Ayesha, she had been teased heavily just before the game hit the shelves. I was out of my mind when I discovered I had to wait one entire month and pay 500 yens. Let’s also mention Final Fantasy XIII-2 o Prince of Persia : why should I pay to know the true end of the story?

In terms of DLC, it’s clear that not everything is acceptable. But buying is not necessarily accepting. I can buy some DLC an end up underwhelmed so I won’t buy the sequel or complain to the publisher on facebook/twitter… which ultimately can lead to a change of philosophy (I notice that Lightning Returns has a lot less DLCs than FFXIII-2, and no important one). Anyway, it is stupid to demonize DLC, question their economic relevancy and deny the happiness they brings to so many people around the world. 

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