Declaration of War: DLC Must Die

(This article originally ran on ScrewAttack approximately 2 years ago, and somehow, is still way relevant. Enjoy!)

Alright, folks! With a title like that, you must already have some sort of clue that I’ve become fed up with with the seemingly customer-hating, money-grubbing business model known as downloadable content.

For those who aren’t aware of what downloadable content even is, it’s the little “extras” that are meant to enhance the gamer’s experience.  But have greedy developers and publishers gone too far? Have we lost sight of what organically makes a game profitable? Let’s find out!

In the Beginning…

After I got my Nintendo Action Set, I went on a rampage of collecting NES titles. Now, this was before the advent of the Internet and by consequence, the smartphone. Driven developers would work frantically to make their games as amazing as they possibly could, running endless tests and ensuring that there were no game-breaking bugs.

As for the development of Legend of Zelda, Shigeru Miyamoto worked in tight conjunction with Takashi Tezuka at the same time that they were conceptualizing Super Mario Bros. Together, they categorized gameplay elements either as “Mario ideas” or “Zelda ideas”. The result? Legend of Zelda sold over 6.5 MILLION COPIES! And guess what? No DLC to be found…ANYWHERE!

This is where I’d throw the blasphemous piece of shit out the window!

Chaos Ruled the Land

Fast forward about 20 years: the world is a much different place. Games are released publicly before they are completed to meet target release dates, gamers are stopped dead in their tracks while playing to watch a random ad, corporate takeover has tainted the camaraderie between CEOs and developers, and fledgling developers are forced to accept a DLC model by their publisher.

Dammit, did we forget how to make games? Why are we allowing those who have never picked up a controller to dictate how we market and play video games? And why are CEOs being forced to take non-gaming shareholders’ advice as gospel, effectively driving a wedge between them and their over-worked and under-appreciated developers?

One of the biggest offenders is Steam’s Early Access system. Now don’t get me wrong. I think it’s an amazing concept, but it’s being taken over by developers who either:

  • 1) never complete their game,
  • 2) charge full price for the privilege of playing an incomplete game , and
  • 3) don’t keep their playtesters informed about development progress.

Even worse, some of these individuals have the gall to charge for in-game DLC! Are they fucking kidding?!

If I were to speak individually to a developer who intended this solely as a means to garner financial support, I’d encourage them to launch a Kickstarter campaign to help communicate their message more effectively. This campaign would allow them to describe their concept, list their goals and provide a ready platform where they can keep their investors updated.

Even better, through continuous positive communication and easy-to-read progress, the developer may find themselves motivated by the sheer outpouring of passion and support from the very audience that they are catering to without worrying about what some greedy, corporate dickbag has to say!

Gamers who invest their money into a project want to feel valued, and the least a developer can do is communicate with them and let them know how things are going! In essence, it does all of the things that a sleazy DLC model does not!

PC gamers are not the exclusive victims of DLC skewering. Mobile gaming, though very successful, is perhaps one of the most DLC-saturated platforms out there! Some of the worst offenders are those that:

  • 1) make the game impossible to complete without an in-app purchase,
  • 2) “nickel and dime” the shit out of their customers with useless cosmetic purchases, and
  • 3) make it too easy for younger gamers to purchase content without their parent’s knowledge or approval.

How bad is it, you ask? How about Google having to fork out over $19 million in refunds?! Mobile developers and/or their publishers who engage in these morally repugnant and vile acts need to be stopped, either by force or by law! It doesn’t matter how awesome a game may be, it’s immediately getting deleted if the game is rendered unplayable without a DLC purchase or if I have to try and dodge a fucking nag screen! End of story!

So What Exactly is DLC?

For the sake of clarity, I will define the term “downloadable content” and provide examples of both good and bad DLC. “Downloadable content”, as defined by Wikipedia, is additional content created for a released game. For clarity, I will make it clear right now: not all DLC is bad.

One example of good DLC would be Nintendo’s decision to offer additional characters, tracks and vehicles for Mario Kart 8 in the form of DLC packs. Without including a nag screen on the main menu, Nintendo gave players the choice to voluntarily navigate to the DLC screen and make a purchase that is not required to enjoy all of the features that the game offered right out of the box!

Gamers who didn’t opt to purchase DLC were not subjected to a crippled, half-functioning game, and could still enjoy playing online or locally with friends and family. Even better, they could still unlock additional tracks, vehicles and characters through achievements alone! What a concept, huh?! Who would have thought that us poor peasants could still be rewarded for playing well?!

For clarity, I will describe what comprises bad DLC! I will not be singling out any developers here (you know who you are, and I’m sure this article will grace your inbox at some point if I do my job right!), but I will summarize what shitty DLC looks like:

  • 1) games that are incomplete or even impossible to complete without a DLC purchase,
  • 2) makes it too easy for those “accidental purchases” to occur,
  • 3) offers seemingly useless, cosmetic purchases that offer no “real value” to the game,
  • 4) make a game artificially short in duration to encourage the purchase of extra levels, and
  • 5) not offer some DLC as rewards for earning pre-determined in-game achievements.

Yeah, I went there! What ever happened to rewarding the gamer for their time and effort? I’ve sunk countless hours into some of my favorite titles, and the one item that almost all of them include is is the addition of new content by simply doing better than I did the last time!

Whether that be completing a level without a power-up or within a certain amount of time, we should be rewarded for loving your game so much that we learned its intricacies, vowed that we would get better, then actually followed through so we could tell our buddies how awesome your game is!

You biz heads out there would recognize this phenomenon as “organic traffic” and “word-of-mouth“, which does much more for showing everyone that your organization is a trusted resource rather than a gaggle of greedy corporate pigs.

Rewarding gamers instead of scalping them for every cent they have will leave a much more lasting impression, believe me!

Wrapping Up

So how do we stop this travesty? Simple. We stop supporting developers/publishers who engage in it. It doesn’t matter if they’re a large AAA company or a starving developer, STOP BUYING AND DOWNLOADING THEIR SHIT! We have all played games long enough to know when something just doesn’t “feel right”, and I would encourage you to go with your gut and stop supporting them! So what happens if we boycott shoddy business practices? Being a former Business student, I’ll fill you in!

Performance metrics make the business world go ’round. After releasing a game, the publisher and/or developer will access online tools that tell them: 1) how many times their app/game was downloaded, 2) their actual/projected ad revenue, if enabled, and 3) amount of in-app/DLC purchases. What is one thing that makes any greedy publisher/developer pucker up like a salted slug? Zero profits!

And how do they react? They either change their approach or face total dissolution! The same approach applies to AAA companies who continually release broken games. Do you think their investors like seeing decreased sales due to smarmy business practices? Of course not! They wanna make that money, so they will then put pressure on the CEO to change course!

Working Together

We, as gamers, have the POWER to take back our beloved industry and encourage the camaraderie that dominated during gaming’s birth and rebirth. Just look at what history has proven time and again: great and pure things can come with teamwork. Banded together, we can scare off the greedy, corporate douches that have saturated our beloved industry and force them to abandon sleazy DLC practices! Remember: they like to make money, and if there’s no money to speak of, they will have to change course! Simple as that!

Consider this my personal declaration of war against poor DLC practices and those who employ them, big or small. You will not see one cent of this clown’s money, and I will sing songs of your shitty practices to anyone I give a damn about, and believe me, there’s quite a few!

Lumpz the Clown OUT!

Clowny links below!