In a recent interview with the YouTube channel Kinda Funny, God of War‘s game director Cory Barlog stated that he had a good idea for DLC, but that it was “too ambitious”.
The God of War DLC would have “ended up being its own thing”, a bit like a separate smaller game. So, that begs the question: why even have DLC in the first place?
DLC is there to expand the content provided in the original game, typically added a month or two after release to draw players back. But surely games should be good enough to do this anyway? Does God of War, with its brilliant story and incredibly designed environment, really need other incentives to encourage players to return?
Finishing a game is a fantastic feeling: it’s a feeling of completion; a journey that has ended. Releasing new content, then, means your journey isn’t actually fully completed. Personally, I don’t want to return to an adventure that I’ve already done with, no matter how great it was. I’ve spent a good amount of time with it, and to me, it’s move on to something new.
If content that would otherwise be released as DLC is present from the very beginning then there’s no break in the journey, making the adventure that much more engaging. Like the God of War 4 development team obviously realised, if there’s a great idea for something new, include it in a new game instead of adding it to an already completed story.
Sometimes the DLC for a game can feel incredibly forced, too. Take the addition of the Master Cycle in Breath of the Wild. Link’s latest adventure was all about experiencing nature and the wild; is anything more contradictory to that than speeding through everything in a completely out-of-place motorbike? Is that really the type of incentive that Zelda fans needed to return to one of the best games in the series?
Another example that really stands out is the Jack the Ripper content added to Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Jack the Ripper is perhaps one of the most notable legends of Victorian London, so why on earth was that not included in the actual game? Because technically the killings happened 20 or so years after the game was set? Interesting that the team who put Dickens, Bell, Marx, Darwin and Florence Nightingale all in the same place at the same time suddenly care about historical accuracy when extra money is involved…
The Assassin’s Creed series is actually pretty notable for its bad DLC policy. Assassin’s Creed Origins was all about going back to the actual origins of the Assassins. But, for some unknown reason (money) Ubisoft saw it fit to release the actual origin story for the Assassins in the DLC. Sometimes it feels like games are actually made with the DLC in mind, which is, quite frankly, mind boggling.
The most obvious reason for DLC is the extra income it can bring. According to We PC, a stats-based gaming site, the DLC industry will be worth $15 billion in 2019. The DLC market has consistently grown since 2011, and there’s really no signs that the growth will stop in the future. It seems almost guaranteed that developers will continue to release games with gaps in its content – only to get more money from gamers by releasing the ‘missing’ content as DLC later on.
There are a few examples of developers not wanting to get more money from their customers, but these are few and far between. Free DLC is typically only used for the less appealing additions, or extra content that really doesn’t need to be there in the first place (new items or outfits usually). In a 2016 interview with Gamesradar Titanfall 2’s cofounder Vince Zampella stated that they liked the idea of free DLC as it would avoid a “split in the community”. But then he went on to clarify that “it’s not free” to design, so they’d have to charge for some of the DLC.
Of course, nobody expects game creators to work for free. But why even go through the hassle of designing a completely new addition to a game that is already finished? Naughty Dog had the right idea for The Last of Us: Left Behind, released in 2014. It was such a big addition to the original game that it was promoted as an expansion to the original. Really, it was a new game based in the world of The Last of Us, so it made perfect sense to release it separately.
DLC can have great content, but if it’s good and is integral to the game’s original story, why include it separately? Money. It’s the only reason. Some developers are prepared to release games that don’t have full content, only to sell the ‘added’ content as extra. It’s about time all companies realised that DLC is a waste of both the company’s resources and the player’s money. If there truly is a great DLC idea, then sell it separately, just like Naughty Dog did, and just like Sony Santa Monica with God of War may well do.