“Downloadable content” is pretty self explanatory: content (for a video game) that you download as an add-on to a game (usually after the game has been released). DLC has been around since the late 90’s, right around the time gaming systems began to permanently migrate out of the arcade and into people’s homes. Now it’s almost expected that any AAA title is going to have DLC eventually. DLC usually takes the form of new quest lines, new skins (in-game cosmetic items altering the appearance of the character, a weapon, etc.), and new maps. Studios love to throw in new weapons and mounts or vehicles too…and they love to charge a premium for it. Whether it’s extra cost, bugs, or spoilers, a lot of DLC ultimately takes away from the overall experience of the game.

Bloated Games Get Even Bigger

 

Modern RPG’s are huge. You can expect to spend dozens and dozens of hours in an open world game. Let's be honest, most major studios have reached that point where their maps are just too big. They’ve tried to outdo each other with bigger square footage numbers, but just like friends in a hot dog eating competition, they’ve become bloated in the process. And we’re talking before DLC. Take Dragon Age: Inquisition, a massive game with the possibility for a couple hundred hours of gameplay, then you add on some DLC. Most single player games get damn repetitive when you hit those numbers. Combat becomes so wrote that no DLC will fix the vague ennui you feel after comboing yet another bad guy to death. It’s much easier to get burnt out. And realistically most players will lose interest eventually, maybe abandoning the game without ever reaching the end. Daunted by the massive map.

There’s Bound To Be Spoilers

Booting up a new game is such a rush of pure joy. New vistas to explore, new foes to face, new coins to bounce towards. But right when you start the game, there, on your pristine quest list, next to something like “pick up the sword”, is a level 68 quest in deadly red letters that says, like, “Amouraxe’s Blood Squall”. Most DLC spoils at least some of the story. You know the protagonist isn’t going to die, you know that the world isn’t going to totally end. It gives away too much just by being there.

Ubisoft

More like Downloadable Cat.

Cash Grab

Sure, DLC is a way for gaming companies to stay profitable and agile. When a game is a hit, studios can scramble to create new storylines and modes to keep players coming back. If a game flops or just doesn’t strike a chord, the developers can abandon it like a limping coyote trailing at the back of the pack *Red Dead 2 Online cough.* Sometimes that DLC is free, like when the most beautiful RPG of all time, Ghost of Tsushima, released their multiplayer mode for anyone who owns the base game. Sometimes it’s thinly veiled microtransactions, and sometimes it’s just a rip-off cash grab of a company trying to squeeze a few bucks out of their audience. It’s not the devs fault usually, we’ll chalk this up to corporate greed coming from cold hearted people who don’t care about the artistic integrity of games.

Undermines The Central Premise

 

Almost every game begins the same way: you are a weakling. Maybe you were once strong, maybe you were once mighty, but now you have nothing and you’re tasked with facing down opponents far beyond your power to defeat. Whether you’re a humble warrior seeking to avenge your son and protect your village like in Assassin’s Creed Origins, or someone destined to rise to power like in Dragon Age: Inquisition, starting from the bottom is a key ingredient for a fun game. So when you boot up a game and you’re flush with legendary skins and weapons from the DLC, it kind of shatters the illusion.

Punishes Players Who Come Late To The Game

 

Ultimately, it changes the game for players who can’t or don’t play the game before a DLC release. There are myriad reasons someone isn’t able to play a game within the first year or so of it becoming available. Some of us weren’t allowed to play certain games growing up, because our dumb parents got fooled by the big lie that video games cause violence. Or maybe you made the idiot mistake of not being alive when a game was first released. Or just maybe, you don’t have 70$ to shill out and need to wait for the game to inevitably become playable game on a subscription service with a Byzantine name like Game Pro Extra Plus Pass (Pro+). Whatever the reason, there should at least be the option for players to experience the game as it was originally intended to be; a spoiler-free wholistic piece.

The Solution

It is well within the realm of possibility for developers to make it possible to turn DLC off or on from the starting menu. In fact, one of the greatest open-world RPG’s of all-time, The Witcher 3, does just that. The DLC in that game can more than double the length of the main title. The excellent expansions Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine are both fantastic additions to the story. Who doesn’t want to own a gorgeous vineyard and villa in a vampire infested wonderland? But they were wonderful after Geralt had gruffly saved the day. Giving players the option to disable DLC is not uncommon for PC gamers. But with more and more consoles being sold every year, this should be a standard option for console games. Of course, there’s little incentive for studios like Ubisoft, who publishes my beloved Assassin’s Creed series, to adopt this. How else are they going to lure players into using v-bucks Helix Points to buy totally unnecessary cosmetic micro transactions? 

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