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Written by Devon Day
Hello fellow readers of Blast Away The Game Review! Today, I bring to you a topic that has been bothering me for quite a while now; especially in recent years. With this I also bring to you my personal opinion of what I define to be Downloadable Content or DLC for short. After I finish my personal feelings and thoughts, I would like to hear your own; keep in mind that this is just my personal opinion of what I define to be DLC. With that being said, let us get started!
1996 would be a year that Nintendo would help the GameBoy Color catapult and ultimately cement handheld gaming as a major component with their smash hit series; Pokemon. Be it loved or hated, the series became a major contribution of the success of the GameBoy Color and paved the way for multiple games using similar gameplay mechanics, as well as its own sequels. One thing did catch on to me however, was a Pokemon by the name of Mew. After grinding away and finally giving K. Krush Kool a walloping in Donkey Kong 64, my friends had introduced me to Pokemon. Initially, I was enthralled by its simplistic charm and eloquence, but one Pokemon I didn’t quite understand was Mew. “How did you obtain it?” I asked. My friend replied he got this creature through something known as an “event”; a specialized time frame in which GameFreak distributes rare and powerful Pokemon; some with unique abilities or attacks not available through the game itself. As I wanted to obtain one myself, I could not. My mother didn’t have the funds, and it wasn’t until “Giratina and The Sky Warrior” I would finally have one. Back to New however, one thing I didn’t realize is both Nintendo and GameFreak both pioneered a concept that would pave the way for the future. Whether or not Mr. Yamauchi knew is up for question, but once again, a concept unknown began to surface and would rapidly evolve throughout time.
That being said, this leads me to believe that Mew, was in fact, the progenitor of DLC. Since New was unobtainable by other means, the only way to obtain this legend was from a code sent by GameFreak. Using this information, game companies today use the same principles; be it a code through payment or not. However, much like the advancement of science, video gaming is no different. That being said, let us see how game companies began a “expansion” towards the idea.
Companies that saw the Mew event knew that there was untapped potential. One of those companies was Core Design; founders of the Tomb Raider series. One of the first expansions in video game history was “Unfinished Business”, released the same year as Pokemon Red and Blue. While said expansion was a great start, “The Golden Mask” was even better; some even considering it the best expansion in the series. Said expansions introduced new dynamic elements of gameplay and aspects that not only changed the experience, it expanded on the core values of the games mechanics. WoW would also utilize a similar strategy later on; as would other games, such as Fable: The Lost Chapters.
By understanding this method of a new method of delivering content in the form of “Expansion”, we understand how this concept was derived from DLC. “How did ‘Expansion’ trickle down from ‘DLC’?”, I hear you asking. Remember Mew? Remember how New could utilize any move he wanted? While Mew didn’t alter any form of experience the game, as it was still a core function within the game, he did alter the aspects of the gameplay mechanics, as using any move introduced a level of unpredictability within the game. Yes, CPU wouldn’t change its strategy, but your friends most likely had to. However, one major factor we have not touched on yet would be online gaming. Don’t fret, as we shall! That being said, let us continue!
Many people remember an great start towards online gaming with the Xbox. However, the Dreamcast pioneered the concept, and Microsoft rapidly evolved the concept of online gaming. Much like online gaming, DLC was bound to go with, and one company already had a planet buster series to utilize; Bungie. Halo Combat Evolved started a revolution of multiplayer gaming; GoldenEye being its forerunner. Halo 2 would add “DLC” of its own; giving rise to “Map Packs”. This form of DLC expanded the usage of how DLC is implemented; introducing new maps containing newer strategic areas; as well as new dynamic elements towards the game. DLC “Map Packs” would further pave its way onto the next generation, but applied a different outlook. Before we get into that, let us discuss the “Map Pack”. Map Packs might have revolutionized the concept, but didn’t quite revolutionize the concept much like Nintendo did. However, Bungie would help another sleeping giant, as well as its greatest adversaries to come, in both Treyarch and Infinity Ward use the idea of DLC and use it towards their advantage. However, how they used the concept will be discussed… starting now.
Call of Duty changed the FPS landscape due towards its fast, fanatic pacing within multiplayer online gaming. However, they would also be the pioneers of altering the original form of DLC as well. Modern Warfare 3 introduced something called the “Season Pass”; bypassing DLC altogether in exchange for a set fee of $49.99. Seeing this opportunity but not wanting to just “add” content much like Call of Duty did, Take Two’s franchise of Borderlands hit full stride in “Borderlands 2”, adding further elements of the first. The biggest difference however, was Take Two’s variation of the Season Pass; buy your way to obtain a higher level cap. While the other elements, such as revamped levels and missions that introduced new ways to explore the game, if you were a completionist, buying the Season Pass was a necessity. Call of Duty drives this further down. Suppose you want to play with friends via an in game join progress session, but your friends have the latest map pack, or even the Season Pass. Playing with your friends just got a bit more expensive. Another example of how DLC has been heavily altered is the Street Fighter 4 saga. Fans were displeased with Capcom to find out that characters were in the game, but had to pay a fee in order to obtain them. This isn’t to say some companies don’t know how DLC works, but others like Capcom have successfully altered the original purpose of DLC, which again, was to introduce a new refreshing experience and introduce dynamic elements and aspects to further utilize the core mechanics of the game. However, the 7th gen. was just the start. Let us skip into the 8th gen. Onwards, fellow readers! You are reaching the light at the end of the tunnel!
After the Season Pass introduction by Modern Warfare 3, League of Legends introduced Micro-Transactions. While not the first game to do so, how Riot Games utilizes this does raise some concern. For example, say if you love a champion, but said champion is part of something known as the “Weekly Rotation”, you have spend money to obtain said champion for good. While the costume variations are done right in the case of introducing a new cosmetic towards a character; how they are priced still remains the issue. Thankfully, these are not forced upon a player, but having said option should be more accessible towards everyone since it is a “Free To Play”. Planet side 2 goes a step further; using micro transactions for faster level ups and better weapons. Such systems become “Pay To Win” and incite people with better income to play said game to real the benefits. In hindsight, this is turning the original purpose of DLC into something toxic. Gamers now are under the generalization that many companies use the term only to obtain higher profitability. The most recent example of this is Evolve, where Take Two predicated the top priority of the game to obtain profit through minor tweaks and changes for a substantial amount of money; totaling well over $100. For me, I think that many game publishers need to re-evaluate the original purpose of DLC, how to properly price the content, and radically change the tactics being used. If not, gamers will be hesitant on a purchase; unknowing that there are additional fees of the game they may have to obtain, which in turn, could not only damage gaming franchises, but trust as well; something that cannot be broken in an industry that continually increases each passing year. Ultimately however, my definition of what I believe to be a DLC is this: A form of content that introduces and drastically changes elements and aspects of a form of entertainment refreshing while still utilizing the core mechanics.
That being said, this now concludes my interpretation of what I define to be a DLC. Now that I have completed my definition, I would like to hear yours. Before you start however, keep in mind that person is entitled towards their opinion. All I ask is that if you don’t like another persons viewpoint, please be constructive in your criticism.
About the Writer:
A man growing up between the gaming boundaries on the 5th generation Nintendo 64, but admiring the 3rd gen. Nintendo Entertainment System and 4th generation Sega Genesis for their contributions, Devon Day always has something on his mind regarding video games and the accessories they contain. His first was a microphone for the Nintendo 64 for the “Hey You, Pikachu!” video game, but expanded towards the next line up of gaming peripherals including the Astro A40, MadCatz MLG Pro Circiut Controller, MadCatz STRIKE 7, and many other gaming gadgets. Now loving gaming tech more than ever, he sees this generation crucial to bring the full circle of social connectivity that the 7th. generation of video game consoles started.