Remember those simpler days when you would ride your bike down to the store to spend your hard earned money on a new game you fancied, and you actually got what you paid for? Well times change. Nowadays many gaming experiences are segmented and muddled by day one DLC and exclusive pre-order bonuses. A lot of the content in these packages could have been in the original game, but as technology advances the cost to make games increases and developers take drastic measures keep their income up. This has become the norm as of late and many developers fallen into this trap which may very well hurt the entire industry.
Needlessly to say poorly handled DLC is a hot topic. A lot of people have ethical issues with the way many game developers handle DLC these days. Today I want to touch upon a very specific part of the DLC conundrum, namely something I like to call ‘useless DLC’. By this I mean downloadable content that doesn’t add anything worthwhile to the game or simply isn’t worth the money. The most infamous example of this is the The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Horse Armor DLC package back in 2006. For a whopping two and a half dollars this downloadable content added two pairs of unsightly horse armor that made your horse last an extra two seconds in battle. Two and a half dollars may seem like nothing but this is a package that Bethesda actually put effort into and marketed to fans. It ended up to be a futile effort and crushing peoples expectations. A lot of people got upset when the DLC launched and criticized Bethesda for charging people for a simple in game item that should have been free in the first place. I, however, only got confused.
I started to wonder why they chose to release content like this. Bethesda Softworks is an experienced game development company. Surely they must have realized that this wouldn’t go down well with the public. I think they knew this very well in advance, but purposely chose to do it regardless. In this article I’d like to shed some light on some possible motives behind ‘Useless DLC’.
The matter of fact is that triple A game developers don’t often work in an efficient hierarchy. A lot of different disciplines have to work together in a tight formation and money is often the leading decision maker when it comes to creative direction. So when a game doesn’t do as well as expected the order to create downloadable content so the company can create extra income often comes from the company directors who have little insight in the creative process. The creatives, who by now have moved on to another project, are pulled off their current project and are basically forced to work on downloadable content. This often results in poor quality. Never force creativity, it simply doesn’t work.
The superiors are more concerned with the company bookkeeping than the quality of the game, as they should. But this bad communication between executives and creatives may still hurt the company in the end as their reputation may decline when they put out bad products.
Another reason may be desperation to keep a series alive. Often companies don’t have the necessary funds to create a sequel and by the time they do have the funds interest has died down. This is when they create DLC in order to keep people playing their game regardless of quality. They want to buy time until they can make a sequel. If you take a good hard look at the numbers it’s often more profitable to hurt a franchise with bad quality DLC than it is to let the fire fade. But in the long run it’s rarely worth it
There are many more reasons as to why video game developers purposely put out bad DLC, but this article is running long as it is. So let’s hear your voice. Why do you think that developers come up with bad downloadable content that may up hurting a beloved franchise? Tell me in the comments below!