DLC Practices in the Gaming Industry

Evolve gameplayscreenshot

DLC has provoked debate in the gaming industry for a number of years now. Recently it seems that more and more people are getting involved and making their voices heard on the matter. What used to be a wholly positive term (who doesn’t want more content for their favourite game?) has become a warning sign for many.

Take the recently released Evolve [official site] for example. Evolve is a AAA multiplayer game developed by Turtle Rock Studios and published by 2K Games that released last month to some controversy. The retail version of the game is being sold for £34.99/$59.99. The game also launched with 44 different paid DLC and multiple editions all offering different levels of included and future DLC.

This huge amount of paid DLC at launch has drawn serious criticism from many people. Paying full retail price for a game then finding so much content locked behind a pay wall on day one would alienate anyone. On top of this, the multiple editions being sold are very confusing as to what they actually offer. So confusing in fact that people had to create spreadsheets to understand what they were buying. The whole system seems to be purposefully bewildering to entice you in to buying a more expensive edition for fear of missing out on content.

Regardless of whether the the game itself is fun or not, the Turtle Rock and 2k Games treatment of their consumers has resulted in their latest creation receiving a massively negative response. At the time of writing the Steam store page has user reviews showing a mixed response and metacritic users scored the pc version of the game at a paltry 4.3. I know that I was excited for Evolve and followed it in the press for a long time before release. However the horribly shady business model that Turtle Rock and 2K Games used, combined with the huge amount of day one DLC, destroyed any previous interest I had in their title.

On the opposite side of the spectrum there are great examples of DLC done the right way such as Bethesda’s approach with their Fallout and Elder Scrolls series. Ignoring the early attempts of overpriced horse armour they soon revamped their approach to something less comically terrible. They began offering small expansion packs which include entirely new content areas, maps, quests, weapons etc. So instead of being enticed in to purchasing a ridiculous amount of micro DLC, everything is instead rolled in to one package and sold at a price that doesn’t make the consumer feel like they were just mugged in their own home.

These more principled approaches to selling DLC help to promote a positive relationship between the developers and their consumers. The consumers benefit from getting substantial content for their games without feeling like they are being taken advantage of. In turn they feel more comfortable emptying their wallets on DLC which goes on to support the product they enjoy, hopefully resulting in further patches and content. The developers present a positive, ethical image of themselves which creates long term brand loyalty in their consumers.

You would think after so many years of companies getting DLC so frustratingly wrong that they would finally learn from the ones that do it right. Developers and publishers need to stop ruining their games with greedy DLC practices, it’s helping no one.

Image Copyright © 2K Games, used for identification purposes only.

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