DLC is almost a swear word amongst the gaming community, something that lazy game publishers roll out in order to squeeze some extra pennies from you and inject some extended play time into their games. When we’ve been faced with ridiculous DLC in the past, such as essentially useless horse armour in Oblivion, power ups in Dead Space 3, and new ‘Colour Packs’ for Street Fighter 3, it’s easy to see why DLC is seen as evidence of the industry’s greed.
However, while reading 10 Big Myths About Video Games, Debunked by the People Who Make Them, I was surprised to learn just how DLC can hold a gaming development team together. Elizabeth Zelle told Kotaku:
‘In the past you would see large layoffs when a game submitted because there simply wasn’t any more work for a lot of the devs on a team. The same studio would start hiring back up months later when their next project got to the point of needing a large team again. DLC production, the employment it provides devs, and the bonus income it generates to pay them works to keep game studios out of the layoff-hire back cycles and lets game devs enjoy a more stable life.’
Most gamers, myself included, could honestly say that they never really thought about the livelihood of dame developers before now. Surely once they were hired on by a company, they stayed there? Clearly, that isn’t so. In a global economy where a job for life no longer exists, why did we expect the situation to be any different for them?
DLC, then, serves a higher purpose than simply making more money. When funds are generated through DLC sales, staff can be kept on and producers save time and money in re-hiring every time they need a new dev team.
Of course, this doesn’t help when the DLC put out feels lazy and exploitative, like the above examples. However, it’s worth remembering that this isn’t always the case. The ‘Old World Blues’ expansion for Fallout 3, ‘The Knife of Dunwall’ and ‘Brigmore Witches’ packs for Dishonored, and the ‘Minerva’s Den’ expansion for Bioshock 2 – a personal favourite – meant that these games were given more room to grow and let the player explore their stories, or even let them tell new stories altogether. When done well, good DLC can make it worth your while to buy the full game itself.
When done properly, DLC can be a win-win situation for everybody involved. Gamers get new, quality content for the games they love, and game developers get to enjoy a more stable work environment, therefore being able to put all their energies into creating quality games. When game development is such a specialised skill, it only seems fair that they’re allowed to stay in one job, rather than having to bounce around looking for work once their current project is over. Hopefully we’ll start seeing new developments in DLC soon, with expansions that’ll both keep talented devs working and give gamers more quality content.