How Downloadable Content Stormed into the Gaming Industry


Matthew Lee
Games Reporter

In this modern age of video games, developers are often pressured to release new games at faster rates by fans. The internet has allowed for groups of gamers to praise, discuss, and complain about current games in multiple forums such as Reddit, where games are dissected on a daily basis by renowned reviewers, playtesters, and regular gamers alike.

Back in the day, when a game did not meet the public’s expectations, the developers would take note of such criticism and work hard to improve the next project. However, in this day and age, two things allow developers to fix crucial bugs, balance issues, and even add or remove content from the game. These changes come in the form of patches and downloadable content (DLC).

DLC is a fairly new aspect of the gaming world that can be used in both positive and negative ways. Some developers have abused the concept of DLCs, luring users to purchase “early-access” games and season passes that promise quality content, but only leave users with shallow and unnecessary trinkets such as skins. Other developers use patches and DLC wisely, adding anticipated expansions and user-inspired content into games to improve them.

In 2015, Bethesda Studios announced a season pass for “Fallout 4,” a highly anticipated title due to the successes of its predecessors in the Fallout series. This season pass would be available for purchase before “Fallout 4” was released and Bethesda promised that season pass holders would acquire all DLC content. The DLC previously released for the past “Fallout” games offered expansion packs that improved upon the storyline, added new chapters to the game, and unlocked a plethora of exclusive items. Expecting this, the season pass buyers were extremely disappointed when the DLC for “Fallout 4” only offered two lackluster story chapters and a mediocre side mission. It didn’t address any of the problems the base game had, and only added more complex issues that made the game less favorable for users.

“Mortal Kombat X,” a competitive fighting game, was released in 2015 with 25 playable characters. The developers, NetherRealm Studios, offered two DLC releases, the first of which introduced four new characters, with the second introducing four more. This was a relatively natural progression of DLC content for a game at the time, and did not raise any eyebrows.

However, competitive players saw the power discrepancy between some of the DLC characters and the original roster. For example, a top-tier character, Alien, is a DLC character. Therefore, it forced competitive players and players that enjoy playing ranked matches to buy the “Alien” DLC in order to study or play the character. Although this example is relatively minor and not a huge infringement or abuse of the DLC system, it shows that developers can potentially use the competitive audience and aspect of the game to their advantage, by offering a “pay-to-win” DLC to exhort money from competitive players.

On a lighter note, “Starcraft” and “Starcraft 2” are prime examples of DLC done right. “Starcraft” was one of the most successful PC games of the 20th century and its expansion “Brood War” in 1998 was considered one of the earlier forms of “DLC,” where a game developer expanded upon a current game’s storyline and content with a new release. Both releases were received favorably by gamers, and “Starcraft” is still considered one of the most successful PC games.

“Starcraft 2” did not garner the audience that its predecessor had, but it began with a fairly large one. Now only harboring a niche community, “Starcraft 2” received an influx of DLC content in 2016, as its developers at Blizzard Entertainment listened to user feedback and released side missions, new game modes, unit skins, and main-story-progressing content. This type of DLC was praised by the “Starcraft 2” audience, as they had expressed desire for DLC content from Blizzard since 2014.

Usually, DLC is content that users must pay for to receive, but in Capcom’s “Street Fighter V,” the DLC characters are released seasonally. Capcom was highly criticized when they released “Street Fighter V,” as the game felt very incomplete. The storyline was poorly drawn and there were no proper cutscenes for any of the few characters that were available at release. Competitive players theorize that Capcom rushed the release of “Street Fighter V” to allow the game to secure a stage in the highly anticipated fighting game tournament EVO in 2016.

Despite criticism, Capcom bounced back and implemented a seasonable DLC release system, where new characters such as Urien, Guile, and classic villain Akuma were available for users to buy not with real world currency, but in-game currency that is earned at a reasonable rate from playing the game naturally. This opened many doors for “Street Fighter V,” as gamers’ hopes were rebirthed for old characters that were not previously announced, such as the fighter Decapre, a fan favorite.

“Street Fighter V” and its seasonable DLC system gave users an incentive to keep playing the game in order to earn currency to unlock new characters and stay up-to-date with the game to see if Capcom would release brand new fighters or return nostalgic ones.

DLC is an aspect of video games that won’t be abandoned any time soon, and it’s hopeful to see that developers are learning from each other to accommodate gamers’ desires. Almost every game released nowadays has some form of DLC, and gamers will be watching closely to be more aware of what their purchase will get them in terms of content and exclusives.