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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

End the “When Do The Developers Work On It?” DLC Purity Test

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - When you apply LOGIC to it, the purity test makes no sense.

Alternative sub-title: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

When I read comments sections on forums and the like (but I haven't seen this on KoopaTV's comments section, either because I don't talk too much about it and you're on-topic, or you guys are smart), I read a fair number of gamers complain when game companies start working on post-launch downloadable content (DLC)... before the launch of the game. That's apparently a no-no to you gamers.

But if a developer starts working on DLC the day after launch? Suddenly, that arbitrary distinction becomes very meaningful to you... even noble.

Why? It makes no sense.

First of all, you won't ever know what happens within a game studio. When people work on what projects. You don't work there. You don't know. A company can make public statements — but what's the truth? You look at Masahiro Sakurai and his statements on paid downloadable content with Super Smash Bros. For Wii U, and they're flat-out contradictory. Then you go look at the Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot and Bayonetta, and you think that whole election was rigged. If the outcome was predetermined, then they were working on Bayonetta the whole time while having this whole publicity stunt designed to appeal to people who admire post-launch DLC development.

One reason I've seen is that people think that, if the developers wait until after release to start work, they will be much more responsive to fan desires. Balance patches aside (you need real world data to know how if you screwed up the game balance during testing), developers tend not to take fan requests into account when making post-release content. If it looks like they did, then it's either a trivial request, they were planning to do that all along, or they're an atypical small indie company. Big companies don't accept submissions to begin with.

Another reason I've read is that people believe that companies who have developed DLC prior to the game's release should have made that DLC as part of the main game, and shouldn't charge extra for it. In other words, they take a finished game, and then chop it up. This part is the base game that is $60, and this part? We'll disseminate that as DLC and charge $20 for it. That way, you're spending $80 on what would be $60 in order to be able to experience the full game!

Destiny 2 DLC Curse of Osiris less content
Remember: If you don't like it, it's a free market. You don't have to buy it. I know I didn't.
Source: Rifle Gaming. (I didn't actually watch this video.)

There is a reason beyond “because we can.” for why developers are doing that. They have to. Game prices aren't keeping up with inflation, so they're as cheap as they've ever been. They could raise prices to $80 and charge everything at once, or they can be pro-consumer and charge you only for what you want. It's the same principle as micro-transactions in a free-to-play game. You lower the barrier to entry so as many players can try the game out, and if they like it and want to play more, they can pay more. If you don't like it or you're satisfied with the base, then you didn't have to pay for what you didn't want.

This all reads like a justification for why DLC exists at all, so let's get back to the timing issue. It doesn't make a difference to you whether or not a company has developed the DLC before the game's release, or after. If they did it after, they still planned to work on it before the release. They just didn't have the resources to do it. You look at Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and they announced their whole Season Pass plan pre-release in that horrible dedicated Direct. Just now, Monolith Soft claims that they just finished recording the voice-acting for future DLC, so based from that, they're using this time to execute on their already-established game plan.

Again, though, you have no idea how much they got done when, unless they literally have DLC available the day of release. Speaking of DLC release timing, I've also read people taking issue if DLC is available too soon to the base game's release time. They must not have liked the October 2013 release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, and the November 2013 release of the extra paid case, Turnabout Reclaimed. Or the September 2016 release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, and the... September 2016 release of the extra paid case, Turnabout Time Traveler. (The DLC cases are totally worth it, by the way.)

But what if CAPCOM released those cases six months later? Would anyone have bought them? Unlike games like Splatoon where people are still playing them months after release, continuously, not every game can benefit from such a low churn rate. Games like Ace Attorney are not designed for that. To get the most amount of people to get the DLC, you need to release the DLC closest to when the most amount of people still have the game in their mind: near release. If it's too late, people won't get back to it, and then not only the game company suffers from lost revenue, but the gamer suffers from not experiencing it. Even though they WOULD HAVE BOUGHT THE DLC AND ENJOYED IT if only it were released sooner.

(For example, I haven't gone back and played Super Mario Odyssey to see what the Luigi's Balloon World mode — which was a FREE update — is all about, because I don't feel like it and I'm not thinking about Super Mario Odyssey anymore. Besides, of course, what to do about Cappy and his latest evil schemes.)

That's why they have Season Passes, by the way. They have you buy them while you're thinking about the game (its release), and the fact you made that purchase forces you to keep thinking about the game as they drip-feed post-release content. You need to continually be active during the whole duration of the Season Pass to make sure that purchase was justified, after all!

Ludwig wonders how he can use some of the principles discussed in this article to increase reader engagement on KoopaTV, but since KoopaTV is already free, there's nothing he can really do with that. Oh well. Instead of reading the author mope about KoopaTV's nonexistent business model, why not think about companies that have actually thought theirs through, and write some comments in the comments section about your feelings about DLC and when they are worked on? Remember the opening of this article: the KoopaTV comments section has high expectations (and also the KoopaTV Loyalty Rewards Program — Round 19 ends in a week)!

Rawk doesn't think that Sea of Thieves is bad because it's holding content hostage as DLC; he thinks it's bad because it's... just a bad game.


  1. DLC is very useful for game developers who are forced by publishers to finish their game for a certain time frame. They could then work on a smaller but stable game and then add more content as time goes by. Imagine how useful that would be for E.T. for the Atari to just add after the game is officially released and satisfy the publishers and not be infamous instead.

    1. I think E.T. would still be bad.

      Here's the thing: If developers release the base game and it's not even finished and they just intend to patch things up with DLC, people will know about it and word will spread. And it will rightfully tarnish that developer's reputation.
      (And/or the publisher's.)

  2. I'd rather have the whole DLC that expands the base content of a game than being charged separate micro-transactions. Whether it is being worked on before or after a game launches is no big deal to me. As long the main game stands well on its own, then I have no problem with paying for extra content.

    1. It is a good question that maybe I should tackle in the future: What is better, DLC or micro-transactions?


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