There has been a recent outcry over Day 1 DLC. Many gamers believe that it is a cheap gimmick from publishers to make more money on content that should’ve been included for the $60 price tag of most games. Often gamers wonder why this content wasn’t included in the game if it was ready upon release. I am all for value, $60 is no small price to pay for a game and publishers should never shortchange their customers to make an extra buck. However, if a game delivers a complete experience and happens to be accompanied by some Day 1 DLC that complements or adds to the existing experience I am ok with it, in fact, I prefer it.
There are two kinds of (good) DLC, the kind that blend seamlessly in with the existing game, and the kind that takes a drastic departure from the vanilla game to do something innovative and fun that would be out of place in the normal game. An example of the former would be the DLC story missions for Assassin’s Creed 2 titled “The Battle of Forli” and “Bonfire of the Vanities” respectively. An example of the latter would be Red Dead Redemption’s Undead Nightmare.
Assassin’s Creed 2’s story takes places as a series of memory sequences that serve as chapters in the game. In the vanilla game the memory sequences jump from Memory 11 to Memory 14, the jump is barely noticeable in the game (at least I didn’t feel as if I had been robbed of content). The numbering of the memories indicate that Ubisoft intentionally skipped those sequences and always had the intention of releasing them as DLC. The aforementioned DLC story missions serve as memory sequence 12 and 13. The missions enhances and enrich the story of Assassin’s Creed 2 but are hardly crucial to the understanding of the story. Yet, when one plays the game from beginning to end with the DLC already installed, memory sequences 12 and 13 perfectly blend into the existing campaign to the point where the experience is completely holistic.
Red Dead Redemption’s Undead Nightmare is an example of DLC doing something incredibly different from the vanilla game. Undead Nightmare turned the Wild West into a horror landscape populated with zombies and allowed you to track and capture the four horses of the apocalypse. The DLC was refreshing, innovative, and most importantly fun, but no one would ever mistake it for the vanilla game.
Assassin’s Creed 2 and Red Dead Redemption do DLC very different, but both are excellent. The only problem? They released months after the games came out. By the time the DLC’s released I had long finished both games and set them aside as I moved on in my gaming collection. The excellent quality of the DLC’s, as well as my affinity for both vanilla games, made me come back but this was the problem. I had moved on both mentally and physically (my muscle memory was gone for each game). I had to try and remember what was happening in the story and I had to remember the mechanics of each game as well as how to actually play the game.
If Ubisoft were to release it’s DLC when Assassin’s Creed 2 came out I would’ve downloaded it, played it, and it would’ve been extra content that was beautifully incorporated into the game. If Rockstar had put out Undead Nightmare when Red Dead initially released it would’ve been excellent end game content or entertaining interlude between vanilla gameplay. I could have enjoyed the additional content in concert with the main game, in this sense the DLC rides the momentum I have playing a game. I would have been in my groove of the game, the physical disk would still be in my console, and I would have been able to contextualize and play the game at the best of my ability.If a game gets it’s hooks into me I will gladly pay for more of a good thing. I don’t care if it’s not included in the existing package, as long as the vanilla game doesn’t short change me I would rather have the bonus content sooner rather than later.
Will I download it day 1? Probably not, but as I get to the end of a great game I look for ways to prolong the experience as long as possible. I complete every side quest, talk to every NPC. Give me an additional 5 hours of gameplay with an interesting story while I’m still playing it and I will happily pick it up. Release it months after I’ve put the game away and I might play it.