Day-one DLC, micro-trasactions, free-to-play, platform exclusive and retail exclusive DLC. All are controversial decisions of a new age of gaming that focuses more on putting popular games into as many hands as possible rather than evolving game design. That being said, old-fashioned DLC has now become more generally accepted as the norm and is no longer universally despised, at least in the eyes of Ubisoft.
From Horse Armor to the map packs and added campaigns we see today, Ubisoft's VP of Digital Publishing Chris Early says in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz that companies have learned a lot over the years of how to make people feel like they aren't being ripped off.
"I think there are some models that are accepted now, DLC is pretty much accepted. Season pass is pretty much accepted. There was no resistance, maybe there were 12 guys somewhere who said something, but whatever. As a whole, there wasn't a problem.
"Now it's interesting when you start to think of Season Pass as a Service Pass. For our Season Pass holders, I know we hold events for them specifically, so it's little bit more than just DLC content. So there's an evolution going on there."
I've never purchased a Season Pass for any video game, and I never intend to blindly jump into gaming content.
As far as I can see, unless you are providing me with a great reason to revisit a favorite game of mine, then your DLC is nothing more than a cash-grab afterthought that wasn't good enough to make it into the final product. However, for games I have enjoyed immensely, Mass Effect and Guacamelee come to mind, I'm willing drop a few bucks if I don't feel like I'm being pushed or am missing out without it.
Early says that is the exact middle ground which DLC has to find.
"Where it hurts is when you feel like you're forced, or you're at a disadvantage or can't do it unless you [pay money], that's kind of a remorseful feeling, and nobody likes that. Good design, that's what it comes down to."
Very true. I don't play free-to-play because I know there are going to be people who can outgun me by dropping real world cash on a game I might not be willing to pay as much for. I'm not going to pay for guns that I might have unlocked in another game for free, and the more I'm made to feel like I'm missing out on full experiences because publishers are stripping games of content to make way for DLC, the more I feel the urge to abandon the AAA market rather than embrace it.
If you can design an extra mission in Mass Effect or some cool challenges in Guacamelee worthy of an extra few bucks, fine. DLC has a place, and I'll buy it during a sale. If you can't make a game worthy of revisiting from the core experience alone though, that is your failure as a developer for leaning too much on DLC, and you are merely contributing the simplified and gutted state video games are slowly finding themselves moving towards.
Ever wonder why there are so many more older games worth revisiting than there are today? Because they couldn't depend on DLC to drag out their value.