Day one DLC exists because consumers demand it

Ben Parfitt
Day one DLC exists because consumers demand it

Consumers spend a lot of time complaining about day one DLC. The thing is, they spend a lot of time buying it, too.

It’s a phenomenon seen across the entire industry. The amount of vitriol aimed at Call of Duty, for instance, would suggest that it’s not popular. When in fact it’s the best selling series of the modern era.

The simple fact remains that what a gamer says is often not what a gamer does. (Plus, never forget that the online vocal minority do not and never have spoken for the majority.)

“Contrary to what you might hear on the internet fans do want more content,” BioWare’s director of online development Fernando Melo told an audience at GDC Europe, as reported by IGN.

“They tend to say, ‘I want it now’. The problem with day one content and the challenge around it is that the right answer for now is different for every player. There is no single right time, there is no single now. It’s subjective, and it’s unique to every player.”

Melo went on to explain that DLC does a great job of keeping players actively engaged in the game, with player activity spiking significantly every time new content is issued.

Interestingly, each DLC release is also accompanied by a jump in sales of previously released content.

Also of note is the fact that while retail sales of game typically drop off soon after launch and never recover, DLC purchasing habits have a slower but more consistent pattern. “DLC is really safe, from a risk perspective”, Melo added.

None of which addresses the core consumer issue – if DLC content is ready for day one, then why is it not included in the game proper?

DLC traditionally falls into two camps. On the one hand you have studios like Rockstar. It works hard on completing a title and getting it to consumers. Once that is achieved it goes away and develops further content, the work on which is funded by the resulting sales.

On the other side of the table there’s strategised DLC. This is content designed purely with one purpose – increasing the revenue generated by each game sale. Much of it is developed in tandem with the main product (and can sometimes even be found residing on the disc that consumers already own) and only ring-fenced from the main game as selling it separately will increase revenue.

Publishers and developers, however, will deny this until they’re blue in the face. And BioWare is no exception.

“If you have a consistent culture of how you’re communicating to your fans, that will increase the number of people that are more likely to believe in your explanation,” Melo added, dodging the issue.

“You’re not lying to them, but they will take whatever you’re saying as like, ‘you’re lying to us’. That will always be there. The only way that that’s going to go away is you fast forward a few more years, where this is just normal. Every game is digital from day one. Every game is an ongoing service, almost like an MMO, where on any given day new content shows up. Maybe that’s part of the base package, and maybe it’s a premium feature.”

The conclusion to be drawn is obvious – if consumers really reject the idea of day one DLC then all they need do is not purchase it. All publisher decisions are financiall lead. If day one DLC didn’t sell, it wouldn’t be offered.

Moaning on the internet will change nothing. As is often the way in life, do the only thing you can that get’s noticed – vote with your wallet.

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