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DLC is Just as Bad as Loot Crates

Tonight's topic is a carry-over from the conversation had in our K&G community Discord. We noticed how Destiny is pushing hard on DLC lately after only being out on PC for such a short time, and that spurred us into bemoaning games that launch DLC so quickly and frequently after a game comes out.

It was fairly unanimous that DLC is just as bad as any loot crate system for how it impacts a game, its community, and the practices of a company.

We came up with these main points.

DLC Craps on the Base Game

It's always hard when you see a game release knowing the DLC is either already on the disc or completed. It makes you wonder why that content wasn't part of the game that you paid full price for already. 

Content is often chopped from the game when someone says, "This is good enough to sell as companion content." A personal pet peeve of mine is the episodic content model where they chop up a full game into 4 or 5 smaller games and charge $20 per episode -- like we don't realize that means we're spending $100+ for a game.

Players are Segmented by DLC

DLC can also really segment players. This used to be really bad in the FPS games that charged for maps. When you didn't have a "map pack expansion" you literally couldn't play on some servers. Same thing starts to happen with expansions. In Destiny 2, if you don't have an expansion you're probably never going to play with other people again.

DLC, when excessive, quickly creates a have and have not that extends far beyond the power creep games like Battlefront 2 offer with loot crates.

Excessive DLC Confuses Consumers

I know many times in the past I have looked around to figure out what DLC I need to do the main content, and what DLC is just extra fluff. Even tonight we were trying to figure out what certain DLC unlocked in AC and Destiny.

Why DLC is Worse than MMO Expansions

I've had the argument proposed that MMO expansions are no different than DLC. I disagree. MMO expansions tend to come much later after launch. DLC these days is coming 6 weeks later. 

MMO expansions typically bring A LOT more content than a DLC pack. World of Warcraft is probably the best example of how an expansion can even be an entirely new game that you'll play for 1-2 years. The expansions are reboots, meaning anyone can jump in at a new expansion and be the next best player.

The same can't be said for a map pack, new dungeon or region, and quests added in a game that came out less than two months ago.

DLC is a Price Gouge 

The season passes these days are going for $35-70 or something? That's crazy. Most are a complete rip off. Even the latest Destiny 2 DLC is lackluster for the $19.99 price tag. The maps are smaller than Titan, the enemies and guns are reskins, there's no point in level 5 more levels since all you get are bright engrams, and a Rift-like system right from D3.

Even Assassin's Creed DLC has historically not been worth the price of admission. I love AC. I got the Deluxe edition so I have the season pass. But I don't think it was economical at all. The DLC in the past AC was cleaned up in one sitting -- less than 2-3 hours tops.

I'm over DLC just as much as I'm over loot crates, and can't see why they aren't just as much or more than loot boxes or other mtx systems. I'd be happy to see them on a list of things we never have to see again in games.

  • Yotor says:

    I *bleep*ing hate the Destiny 2 email I got this morning. “Discover the Next Great Adventure”, really? A little more than a month after the game is released, now I’m supposed to spend another 20 bucks for your lackluster story, with your grindy unfulfilling “Skinner Box”. That game isn’t a MMO, ya sure it may bark like an MMO, it may smell like an MMO, but that game is no MMO. How about rather than trying to ring me for my cash Blizzard (Ya I’m calling you out my favorite game company) you release a complete game that doesn’t have 2 sets of DLC within 2 months of launch.

    Now that my Destiny 2 rant is over, lets talk about DLC and the game I give it a pass for but shouldn’t. Civ, yep gotta call you out on this too, You have been increasing your prices for less and less content over the years. You are testing your feet in the water of corporate *bleep*ery. You are lucky that you made a game where I’ll play hours and hours trying to find every little idiosyncrasy and it fills my desire to rule the world.

    DLC vs Lootboxes which is the worst? Trick question they are both awful scummy ways of milking my dollars away from me.

    • Drathmar says:

      Just want to point out, Blizzard has absolutely nothing to do with Destiny 2. It’s only on the Battle.Net launcher because Activision Blizzard is the publisher for Destiny 2 which is still developed by Bungie. You can blame Activision (full name Activision Blizzard) all you want. But Activision Blizzard and Blizzard Entertainment are still two separate companies. I apologize if you aren’t trying to blame Blizzard for Destiny 2 but the way the post is worded it sounds like you are.

      I do agree with the point about DLC on disk being horrible.

      • Yotor says:

        This “isn’t” a Blizzard Entertainment game, but its still a Activision Blizzard game. Their name is on it, their brand is at stake. People aren’t just mad at Dice for their decision to have loot boxes, people are mad at EA as well. Even if you consider Act/Bliz a wholly unique and independent entity from Bliz Ent. one can’t think that “Blizzard” gets a pass. Loot boxes in Overwatch and HotS, HS a digital TCG which is pay to win, cash for gold in WoW and Cosmetic purchases, and the real money Auction house and DLC in Diablo.

        I should also mention the email I got was from Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

        So yes, I do blame Blizzard, they are advertising it, they are getting money from it, they have their hand in the pot and they are just as responsible.

      • Keen says:

        As Yotor points out, people blame EA and not Dice for Battlefront 2. Seems an interesting distinction to blame Bungie over Activision Blizzard.

        They are the publisher, and it’s their launcher, and they’re the ones marketing the game to my inbox.

      • Drathmar says:

        Blaming Activision-Blizzard is one thing. But that is a different company than Blizzard. That was my point. Blizzard Entertainment is a seperate entity owned by Activision-Blizzard. And when someone says Blizzard they usually mean Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. (the developer) and usually use Activsion as shorthand for Activision Blizzard (the publisher).

        I blame Activision for this and I think Activision is as bad as EA in a lot of ways, however I don’t blame Blizzard since they have nothing to do with Destiny 2.

      • Yotor says:

        If they address me with Blizzard Entertainment at the start of their email, rather than Activision Blizzard or Bungie, I’m going to blame Blizzard. As far as I’m concerned they put their brand on the product, their hand is caught in the cookie jar with them.

        Drathmar, I understand why you want to keep Blizzard and Activision separate. It gives us a nice wall between the “good” and bad, but I’ve lived my life for to long to not see the forest for the trees. Sure “Blizzard” is the nice guy who maybe isn’t huffing paint like his cousin EA, or stealing the tires off your car like Activision, but you can be absolutely sure he is the guy that is embezzling millions from a Bank. Sure its a bank and we all hate banks, but hes still a crook. Ya he is a crook that is giving to his local animal hospital and food bank but he is stealing millions and no one bats an eye.

  • Caldazar says:

    Oh man, welcome to generalization country.

    DLC is not always as bad as loot crates, but it can be. Just as loot crates is not always bad. Both depend on implementation.

    There are plenty of bad DLC practices, like DLC that is on release disc, or just cash in efforts like Curse of Osiris. That said, just because bad examples exist it does not mean good DLC does not exist either. For example Witcher 3, Skyrim, Dark Souls, Fallout 4. All of those have non overpriced legit DLC additions to the game.
    It is more correct to state that bad games/bad companies (hello EA) create bad DLC, and good ones get good DLC. The generalization nonsense servers noone.

    PS: Comparing WoW expansions to DLC is quite unfair. Wow is full box price + subscription every month. Even the worst DLC (eg Curse of Osiris) prices at a third of the WoW box price. 15 Curse of Osiris expansions equal to the cost of 1 WoW expansion, which makes the comparison a lot closer and that is taking a bad DLC.

    PPS: The episodic content model, where do you see this? The only example I know of is telltale, but they price at 5 per and 25 complete game.

    • Keen says:

      I agree what you’re saying. While the topic was general, the clarification in my post seems plenty clear to me. I specified the types of DLC that are insidious.

      • Caldazar says:

        If you honestly mean that, then you have descended to becoming a clickbait blog.
        Your post has this structure:
        All DLC is bad and this is why….

        There is nothing in it that implies DLC is usually fine and only sometimes bad.

        PS: I still want to know about the episodic content model.

      • Keen says:

        My post structure was:

        1. DLC is just as bad at loot boxes (title)
        A. Reasons why
        a. Explanation of reasons with modern examples cited within the reasons why

        The overall point was discussing how DLC practices these days, in general — with cited reasoning — are negative for the consumer in ways I believe to be just as bad as loot boxes.

        The clarification was not to the contrary, but to the distillation of the topic.

        That’s the opposite of clickbait.

        There are outliers in this discussions just as there are in the discussions we have about F2P games and Themepark MMOs being bad. There are some great F2P games, and a few Themepark MMOs worth playing, but that doesn’t change the general practices from being an overall negative thing for gamers.

        Switch up the topics:
        Fast food is also bad for you. Here are a few reasons why, and plenty of widespread popular examples of how fast food is generally bad. That doesn’t mean there aren’t fast food places with healthy options. Even McDonalds will sell apples and Milk. It just generally means that fast food is bad for you, for the stated reasons.

        Examples of the episodic content attempts off the top of my head are the Hitman game which was going to be something in the $75 range if you bought it piecemeal, the HL2 debacle, Resident evil revelations 2 with their extra bundle of content. When games try that tactic, it’s shameful. My other pet peeve is the $5-10 episodes with a couple hours of shallow play that keep you waiting, but that’s not relevant to this post.

  • Cthreepo says:

    I think an important difference is that in Loot boxes you do not know what you are getting, but in DLC you at least know what you get.

    • Keen says:

      I have to wonder if that’s true. The DLC for many games is sensationalized. Look at Destiny 2’s DLC and how it’s lauded. Then look at reality: < 2 hours to complete, tiny, reskinned. I think a lot of the time you don't really know what you're getting with these DLC cash grabs.

      • Cthreepo says:

        I can see that to some extent, but lets say to didnt preorder the DLC, but waited 2 days after release, you would have a pretty good idea what you are getting then. Its the same with pre ordrering games. If you do, you are taking an (unnecessary) risk.

        You cant really do the same with Loot boxes, since its random what you get.

      • Keen says:

        I see what you’re saying. Yeah, I’d agree with that.

  • Ettesiun says:

    I still see an essential difference between Loot crate and DLC :
    – Loot crate use a well known bias of the human mind (bad estimation of random)
    – DLC is directly selling content

    DLC is fair : it sells you content for a price. The content is described, you can use external source if you need more information, so there is no surprise.
    Loot crate is unfair : you pay a price and you do not know what you will obtain.

    In both case, the content VS price ratio can be good or bad, ( 10$ horse armor VS full campaign for the same price ; Random non game impacting appearance for 1$ VS a chance of a better weapon for 10$), but in loot crate, the difference in information between the seller and the customer is maximized, while it is very low for DLC.

    About day1 DLC : honestly, I do not understand why a different release date make a difference in the value of the DLC for the gamer, except in shattering the impression that they just pay the cost of building the game. If this could be true – spoiler it is not – that for manufactured good, Price =Marginal Cost + Margin, this is totally false for software.

    The only fair criticism on DLC is segregating the player base for Multiplayer. Depending of the game, this could kill the base game, and this is bad implementation. The rest of the criticism are variation on the theme : there is not enough content for the price.

    • Drathmar says:

      In regard to Day 1 DLC, a different release date doesn’t make the difference. What makes the difference is the fact that most of the time it is actually included in the game already and you are paying to unlock additional content that was solely locked behind a price tag to make more money. I have issues paying for stuff already in the game. If it is in the Game it should be included in the price of the game not locked behind a separate price tag.

      Now, when a company actually works on additions to the game that are actually added to the game and not included and just unlocked by paying, that is fine to sell for an additional price.

      • Keen says:

        I agree with Drathmar’s response. The DLC on the disc (or today’s equivalent since many games are even digital) is a cash grab in the same way a loot box is one.

        Reality: Season passes are the sneaky way to get people to pony up another $35-70 while making it look innocent, when it’s really either (1) crap quality or (2) part of the game people should have been able to play when it launched.

  • audioshaman says:

    I think there’s good and bad DLC. All the DLC you mentioned is bad – same day DLC, stuff that obviously was completed at launch, gouging, season passes, multi-player stuff that splits a community, etc.

    Then there’s some things I consider “good” DLC. For example, I just bought the new DLC Frozen Wilds for Horizon: Zero Dawn. I suppose it counts as DLC, but it feels like a proper expansion to the game. At $25 CAD I felt I got really good value for money and was happy with the purchase.

    I think there’s a risk of getting lost in semantics here – what I’m saying is that I like what traditionally was called “expansions” and now is being lumped in as a type of DLC.

    • Keen says:

      Agreed. I think there are plenty of good DLC — but as you say they end up looking more like expansions.

      The DLC I’m referring to is clearly the “day ” DLC or “planned DLC” within the first 4-8 weeks. It’s typically insidious.

  • I am not sure how you get to that blanket statement.

    Loot crates, lock boxes, gachas, whatever you want to call them: Always bad in every single circumstance in which I have encountered them.

    DLC: Some egregious examples of abuse, with day one one disk extras to sell you, but also plenty of examples of additions that let you enjoy additional experiences in a game.

    Basically, lots of good DLC out there, no good loot boxes. Don’t let your current annoyance with a single game cloud your vision.

    • Keen says:

      The blanket statement is distilled within the text with examples and inference. All assumptions and presumptions are made within the post.

      I agree with everything you said. I think that even Overwatch’s lockboxes are bad, and I think there are some good DLC (but they’re mostly expansions using the umbrella of DLC).

  • ken says:

    Destiny 2’s latest DLC took users about 2 hours to complete and was able to get to max level of 25. I just did the public events (flashpoint) and leveled to 25 also.

    The Division promised 4 DLC with their season pass, delivered 3 of them, then went f2p on the 4th installment.

    • Keen says:

      Agreed.

      And there’s a long, long list of the DLC and season pass antics that screw the consumer. Just from memory as I write this:

      Shadows of Mordor season pass delivered trivial new content for charging players 50% the price of the game.

      Arkham Origins – costume packs you can unlock in-game. Only reasons it wasn’t a scam was because of challenge mode.

      Destiny (the original) – $50 or something for a hot mess.

      Every AC game – So much story tied into these that they release months and months after the game launches. You’re stuck paying for a season pass just to get the answers you want, and they end up being 5 minutes of gameplay along with a bunch of worthless weapons you don’t need or want because you’re only playing for the story for 5 min.

  • SynCaine says:

    “I love AC. I got the Deluxe edition so I have the season pass. But I don’t think it was economical at all. The DLC in the past AC was cleaned up in one sitting — less than 2-3 hours tops.”

    Why would a company that already has a shitty rep for screwing its customers change its ways when it has sheep knowingly lining up to hand over money for crap?

    These rants really don’t make sense coming from you and your discord group when you guys are the reason this stuff is like that in the first place. In a world with no Keens, there would be no day-one DLC or pay-4-power lockboxes, because it wouldn’t sell and the backlash would matter more. But since there are plenty of Keens who pre-order and keep SW:BF2 despite knowing exactly what is happening, and buy the deluxe edition of a franchise that screwed them last release in terms of dlc, it won’t change until you are the vast minority in gaming.

    • Keen says:

      I take the most economical way that I can. I buy the deluxe editions that comes with the DLC at a discount price. In many cases, I buy the deluxe at just $10 over the price of the base game. That way I get all of the DLC valued at $35 for $10. Makes it sting less.

      I have never and will never buy a season pass for $35-75. Quite a difference for me.

      People like me are easy targets. We don’t like the DLC or the loot box antics, but we like the games and the stories. Therefore we buy them because we want to enjoy them.

      It’s not black and white to for many people as you would like to make it out to be.

  • SynCaine says:

    Also could we settle down on the marketing crap on this blog? The ‘gift list’ blogs with affiliate links are one thing, but the banner at the bottom and now the mailing list? Place is one step away from looking like IGN without an adblocker running.

    • Keen says:

      We run no ads. During Christmas we have a banner to share our community’s recommended gift list that people pitched in to promote. We clearly state that the gift list helps support our gaming community with affiliate commissions. Last year the gift list helped to pay for our expenses for three months.

      Sorry if it disturbs you.

  • Danath says:

    DLC is not always bad, but there are a few things. If you plan to have DLC, you should not have expansions, nor should you have “day 1 DLC”, DLC should be reserved for actual additional content after providing sufficient value in the game and for additional mini campaigns or even full expansions, that is fine DLC.

    The problem though of course is when you pay full price for a game, ESPECIALLY a single player game, being smacked with DLC is particularly insulting as it will almost always feel like content that was held back specifically to try and charge you a premium. The moment they insert additional pricing models on top of the full priced game it starts feeling like shady manipulative practices. If you want me to pay for lots of tiny convenience and cosmetics, then make the game have a free entry fee. If you want to charge me up front, don’t nickle and dime me later on and make any DLC or expansions significant upgrades to the base game.

    The only advantage DLC has over lootboxes is you KNOW what you are getting with DLC (at least DLC that isnt lootbox based), but even then fair pricing for the DLC can make or break it in terms of whether its tolerable or not. I can’t think of a game that has actually done DLC reasonably, but my memory/experience of DLC games is not exhaustive as I ignore them every time, or I cheat to unlock DLC in games I’ve purchased.

    • Keen says:

      I agree,, though one caveat being you don’t always know what you’re getting with DLC. You might think to yourself, “oh wow I love this game let me buy that $15 DLC because it’s going to be an epic adventure on a new planet!” Then you get there and it was 30 minutes of gameplay and a new sword. You knew what you were getting… or did you?

  • Shutter says:

    As someone who makes/sells games, here’s my question: If you don’t want us to stop putting out DLC, would you rather have the base game priced at $100, or for us to go back to Xbox/PS2 graphics and fire half the studio? Because those are the options without doing DLC.

    DLC and loot crates exist because the current base game pricepoint doesn’t keep dev studios solvent for the non-CoDs/GTAs of the world. Yes it’s meant to get your money, but so is selling the game in the first place.

    And as a gamer I’ll say that DLC is good and lets me play what I want at a price closer to where I actually value it. There are plenty of games that I’d like to experience but I don’t want to 100% (Hi Assassin’s Creed). DLC lets me play the game for the 10-20 hours that I care about, but not have to subsidize the people who are sinking 100 hours into the game to find every collectible.

    I’ll also add, I’m perfectly happy for people not to buy the DLC attached to games I work on, if people quit buying it, we’d quit making it. But for all the bitching about DLC, the reality is that there’s a solid chunk of people who want this stuff and will buy an incredible amount of it, and they’re subsidizing the base game dev for the rest of us.

    • Keen says:

      I wouldn’t mind DLC that went against the negative trend that I outlined.

      Let’s flip the subheadings around.

      – Content that great enhances and supports the main game
      – Gameplay that brings players together better than ever before
      – Thoughtful release dates and volume such that players aren’t confused or frustrated
      – Priced economically so that we’re not paying 20% the box price for <1% equivalent gameplay

      I’d pay for that.

      I’m totally fine paying more for more. That’s a value proposition I can get onboard with. I don’t like more for less or less for the same. There’s a blog coming on this tonight.

  • Eternity says:

    I too am outraged at whatever we are supposed to be mad about!

    • Keen says:

      Take your pick:

      – Wanting developers to stop ripping players off
      – Disliking a generalization that’s generally correct
      – Blaming Keen and the Keens of the world for capitalism and consumerism
      – Shaming a website for wanting to grow a community with an email list and having a buyer’s guide to point people to their favorite products to buy

      There’s plenty of options.

  • Jenks says:

    Full game in the original box > Expansions > DLC > MTX > Gambling MTX

    In order from ideal to disgusting

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