Too Little, Too Late- An Examination of Late DLC

Photo Courtesy of Bioware

Photo Courtesy of Bioware

Downloadable content (DLC) has been one the most important marketing tools this console generation in order to keep gamers, well gaming. Whether it is map packs, multiplayer, single-player, or something as measly as additional weapons and costumes, DLC  has kept many gamers playing the same game long past its initial launch period. However, a common theme that has emerged in the last few years is to release additional DLC a year or more after a game has been released. Why do this? To provide a lead-in to an upcoming sequel? To simply release that last bit of content they painstakingly sought to finish on time but could not meet deadlines? I would suggests all of these reasons, but above all it is about keeping people hooked on a game that has been long forgotten due to new releases.

With the recent announcement of new Mass Effect 3 DLC, entitled Citadel, I came to wonder as to why they would release this so late. I am a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, putting countless hours into exploring every planet and completing every side-quest. I even put a considerable amount of time into Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode. However, that was nearly half a year ago, and since then I have not went back.  I have other games to play now, the series now being one of my fondest gaming memories- key word being memory.  While there has been a significant amount of DLC for the game,-both single player and multiplayer- my reasons for not returning are simple: there is no reason to. The Mass Effect 3 series ended in spectacular fashion, no matter the complaints many had and which I will not discuss.  Never the less, the game told a complete tale that spawned three blockbuster titles. So why add more to a game that is already complete in the minds of many gamers? The story of Sheppard was evidently done at the end of the third game, as was the story of your companions. With all the DLC additions however, this comes to take away the impact the final moments had. No longer are they as significant when you are going to be seeing these characters again in a matter of months, some being alive and well contrary to what many believed. For me this DLC take away from the game, rather than creating an additional layer to the game.
Mass Effect 3 is not the only game to do this. There have been a great deal of games (Bioshock 2, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, RAGE), where the DLC has come out too late for fans to truly get back into the game. I think the reason behind this is simple. Like Mass Effect 3, they are trying to add to a story, whom in the minds of gamers, was already complete.  Having additional story DLC will not add much to a game, especially when gamers are no longer enveloped in said story. While, this can provide a perfect opportunity for fans to go back and replay the game and then pick up the DLC, this is quite unlikely as they are in the midst of completing another game. Through releasing DLC just a little too late, creators can lose touch with their fanship who have moved on to conquering other worlds. However, this calls into question when is it too late to release DLC?
For me DLC is released on two fronts: single-player and multiplayer DLC. Multiplayer DLC is far easier to release, even months after a game has been released, as there are still likely people playing together online. If you can release a steady stream of multiplayer DLC, you will keep your online community happy and retuning. Where DLC becomes tricky is in the single player area. Companies do not want to, or rather should not, release single player DLC within the week of the game being released. Although the game is still fresh in player’s minds, they are likely still focused on finishing the game, the DLC now becoming an additional mission that must be completed before the games credits. I would argue that single player DLC is best suited one to three months after the game releases. This way it is still relatively recent, and if they truly enjoyed the game, will provide them to jump back into that world. Anything over that three month period becomes difficult, as you are stepping into the next quarter of game releases, and will likely be overshadowed by new titles.
In today’s ever expanding video game market it can be tough deciding when to release DLC. A great way of adding to a game and providing players a reason to empty their pockets of some extra cash, DLC can be a powerful marketing tool to keep players interested in a game, or franchise. However, there comes a point when developers and publishers must realise when to call it quits, and to leave a game as is. Sometimes less is more, and in today’s market creating a game that does not require DLC a few months down the line to keep players playing, can be better than one in which over-relies on it. Video games are about an experience and a sentiment brought forth by playing. While DLC can further continue that sentiment, it can also take away from it if not released at an appropriate time period. Wanting to keep fans hooked is one thing, but accomplishing it is quite another.  Creators must come to realise that creating no additional DLC is not a death-warrant.  Sometimes creating a neatly packaged gift that requires no additional words (or gameplay) to describe is far more powerful than trying to over stay your welcome.
(*Here is where I want to hear from you guys. Is late DLC a bad idea, or will it bring you back to a video game months/years after a release?)

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