Bad game design choices: DLC

Let's get back to bad game design choices to finish off the list I made in my notebook, the next one is DLCs.

What are DLCs? DLC stands for DownLoadableContent and such downloadable content are in general add-ons to the original games that can be downloaded and in most cases those cost additional money. DLC are more of a recent invention with the upcoming of digital distribution platforms. In the past where games were mostly sold as physical copies in stores there existed a similar thing as DLC and those were called expansion packs or add-ons etc and they all required the original game in order to be used, however those expansions from the past are significantly different to what DLCs are now.

At first glance the idea of having DLCs sounds good, I mean you get extra content, like in the past you got with expansion packs, the difference seems to be, that now there are far more of them, but it is mostly a deception. In the past games were produced as a full product, so you buy the game and you got everything you needed and nothing to worry about that you may miss out on extra content, since the copy you bought contains 100% of the game. If the game went well, the developer may decide to produce an add-on or expansion pack or extra missions/levels whatever and sell that in addition. Now in the age of DLCs many games you buy you think are a full product are in fact not the full product, but they have been split up and the rest is s old to you as DLCs for additional money and often delayed in time. You see the difference? In the past games were mostly designed as full products and now games are often designed as unfinished products that you have to complete through buying the DLCs later and pay additional money.

So what is so bad with that? Well firstly it is a money making scheme, but there are also other actual drawbacks that harm the game and the users experience. Let me try to make a list of the possible drawbacks:

1. The user has to pay more money, for example he pays full price for a part of the game and additional money into DLCs to get 100% of the game.
2. The user will get worse experience from the game, since he bought a full game, but only got a part of the game.
3. If the user wants the full game to get the best experience, he does not even know which DLCs to buy, since DLCs are often essential to the experience, but often they are not and mostly useless.
4. The user does not know. if all the content is already released when the initial game is released, he may have to wait an unknown amount of time until all the content is released, so he may play the unfinished product and get a worse user experience, but later when the DLCs are released he already spoiled the game and has no more motivation to play it again.
5. The user may buy useless DLCs and feel scammed, since a lot of DLCs are useless.
6. The user needs to bring up additional effort to spend time in research to what DLCs he needs in order to get the best experience for the game.
7. DLCs may sometimes even be harmful if you buy them, for example they may give you pay2win advantages which I covered earlier why pay2win is bad, even in single player games.
8. DLCs now cost money in most cases, where as in the past they were mostly free.
9. Updates that came free for games in the past are now disguised as DLCs and often cost money.
10. DLCs may motivate developers to release unfinished/worse products as early access which I also covered earlier and then sell them the rest for additional money as DLCs.

I think those are enough points for now and from personal experience I find it especially annoying that, if you buy games now, you don't even know what to buy, since there is often such a long list of things to buy and you don't know what you need and what is useless. In that past you could not do much wrong, most games in store had a certain quality level and even if it was bad, it was at least that way for everyone, it was not your fault. Now it is often your fault, if you don't buy essential DLCs for the game or it is your fault if you buy the useless DLCs or those that spoil the game for you through pay2win mechanics. In many cases I just end up purchasing everything, just in case, which then makes the whole concept of DLCs mostly useless, since they could just all pack it up and release it as one full game. I mostly buy when the games are reduced so that I end up getting the game and all DLCs for like the price of one full game, but hey that is what it was suppsed to be all along. If you had regular full price games that contain all the content, you would not even need DLCs and sales and still pay the same for the games.The DLCs make everything so expensive that you need sales where the price is reduced to get it for the price which would have been the regular price for a game in the past, so basically you need a stupid invention, the sales to make up for the drawbacks of higher costs of another stupid invention which are the DLCs. However this only accounts for the "intelligent" consumers, the stupid consumers still pay more and may get a worse experience or feel scammed later.

As said before at first glance it sounds like a good idea to have extra content to enhance the game, however the biggest problem probably is, that most developers just cheat and split up their regular game into pieces and sell those pieces to the customer for extra money, instead of making downloadable content for real that is added on top of the original game. It is pretty easy to cheat here, since the customer can hardly know what the developer intended to do.

Let me try to make an even simpler list of the possible drawbacks of DLCs, so DLCs may bring you:

1. Higher costs
2. Worse quality products
3. More confusion
4. Worse user experience
5. Deception

So this article is a bit shorter than the others and I don't really know how bad the DLC problem is compared to other major problems with video games like pay2win etc, but at some point DLCs made it to my list of possible bad game design choices on my notebook, so I wanted to write an article about DLCs as well, so here it is.

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