DLC OR HOW TO TRANSFORM GAMERS INTO ADDICTS

icrosoft Flight is just one of many games these days that are offered through a downloadable content (DLC) model. With DLC one usually refers to additional content offered as an expansion to a game. Subject to many critical articles in the press the DLC model is controversial. Just like gambling, acquiring DLC content can become an addiction, especially for young gamers.

DLC is nothing new. It has been there since the 1990s when Internet use took off like a rocket. In the early days DLC was mostly about free bonus content offered to buyers of games, magazines, movies and CDs. In the gaming industry it was Sega with their Dreamcast that paved the way for connecting consoles to the Internet in the late 1990s. Today most consol makers have followed suit, but Microsoft was the first company to charge for DLC with their Xbox game Mech Assault in 2002. Apple on the other hand refined the DLC model for smartphones and tablets with their App Store. Now DLC is an important revenue stream for all the major consol makers, and the model is winning increasing support on the PC platform as well. So what’s the controversy?

To start things off, lets first take a look at some of the positive aspects of the DLC model. Without a doubt it makes distribution a lot easier for both user and creator. Usually one buys the base package retail, then use a DLC store to acquire additional content and updates of sorts. Interestingly that is the only positive aspect, from a consumer standpoint, of DLC I could find while doing research for this article. Logic dictates that easier distribution should make DLC cheap, but that is rarely the case. The trend is that games are being watered down in terms of content while DLC is becoming increasingly expensive and necessary to have if you want to play the game to its full potential. In reality most DLC games are costlier than the traditional retail games, often missing the box/cover and manuals featured in games of the past.

The big controversy is how DLC makes kids addicted to buying new content. Games are competitive in nature and in most cases buying DLC is the only way to win or increase ones status in the games. For instance the retail version of a racing game comes with only a few slow cars. To have any chance of winning you’ll have to get new cars. Among friends – offline or online – competition can become fierce and fuel unhealthy addictive behavior. Microsoft’s Rock band takes the cake. If you were to get all the DLC it would cost you more than $2000! Most modern DLC games also seem to lock out freeware third party developers.

To make things even fuzzier some providers don’t charge for DLC in real currency but has invented a point system to confuse buyers as to what things really cost. In addition some sell these points in bulk, meaning that if you want to buy a 1000 point addon, you’ll have to buy a minimum of 2000 points, hence wasting 1000 points that you either can’t use at all, or spend it on content that you really didn’t want in the first place.

A final open question is what happens to DLC as time goes by? I still play games from the 1980s on my PC. With never games consisting of fragmented parts locked to certain devices and online portals the game might end up completely obsolete in a few years. That is yet another reason why DLC should be a lot cheaper than traditional games and expansion packs.

Based on my research I’ve taken a stand on this. I will never buy into a DLC game constructed like a pyramid scheme. DLC should be reserved for bonus content and real expansion packs at a fair price reflecting its real value. As of today DLC is becoming increasingly unethical targeting young kids and naive parents.

Microsoft Flight seems to be one of the worst games in terms of value. They say it is free, but in reality you only get a demo – don’t be fooled. You can still get FSX for free. It’s a called the St. Marteen demo, so it’s nothing new. Additional content for Flight is expensive and of course necessary to elevate your pilot’s status. If you’re the competitive kind you can easily waste a lot of money for something that should have been included in a fairly priced base package instead.

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