Part 1: Quality Disruption
The DLC. Downloadable Content. The new era in gaming has been upon us for several years now. The basic premise: Buy 2/4 of the game at full price and buy another 1/4 of the game 3-6 months later with the final 1/4 coming 6-8 months from the original release date. Each 1/4 at additional cost, of course. A 60 dollar game becomes 100 dollars. Sometimes these DLCs add brand new content/characters/story arcs, but other times you may just get new toys to try in the exact same game universe.
To define the DLC is to put video gaming across all platforms in perspective. Major video game media centers treat the DLC as normalcy now. The scrutiny of add-ons is typically within the context of the main game. Their aim is to generally answer the question: Is it worth the additional cost? What is lost in this approach is the cumulative degradation of the product – video games. When a game is reviewed, by and large, the reviewer is critical of its technology, artwork, sound quality, score, voicework, and – most importantly – its comparison to the relative industry standard. For example, Saints Row was compared to Grand Theft Auto in its first iteration. A fair assessment. The game has since found a different niche’. The DLC muddles this context because the game is not released at 100% content. How, then, is the original review relevant? A favorable review featuring a game with a “season pass” would not necessarily be comparable to a full game release that does not incorporate add-on DLC. Even worse, a game made for a full release may now feel pressure to create DLC thereby fracturing the original intent of the game.
Lets look at a few case studies, shall we?
STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT
A disgrace in gaming. I could list many bloggers, youtubers, etc that unleashed epic rants on this game. I fell for this shame because I, like many others, was excited about the new Star Wars movie and wished to have a game to play thereby enhancing the experience. This game is the posterchild for the DLC gone wrong. EA admitted after release that the game was heavy on style, light on depth to make the game accessible for children. To that I say, yeah – but no. That’s not the point. LEGO Star Wars is accessible to children, probably cheaper to make, and much more fun. The point is that it is incomplete and fans were made to pay upwards of 120 dollars to wait on DLCs that brought more of the same to them. Not to mention there was no story mode. 120 dollars for a game you can’t play in a thunderstorm if the internet cuts out. The kicker? IGN rated the game 8.0. Metacritic 75%, Gamespot 7/10. How is this rating accurate? What is the comparison?
New content has dropped over time. The Spectrum, a USA Today page wrote the following:
Plenty of new maps, a couple new weapons and some major improvements make this a download that is well worth the effort. Available with the season pass on any “Battlefront” platform.
The way I see it, this is basically this is a paid ad. The highly criticized gameplay has remained unchanged, but there are a few new toys to play with. 3/5 stars. By comparison the same reviewer gave “Blood and Wine” Witcher 3 DLC 5/5. Witcher 3 was a highly rated game from the start. Blood and Wine added significant story additions along with new toys in an already expansive universe.
STREET FIGHTER 5
Unfortunately, even the old guard of video games has been tarnished. One may argue that Street Fighter may have originated the DLC in the form of Street Fighter 2 iterations, Street Fighter Alpha, and the more modern Ultra editions. The difference? Street Fighter 2 predated the console dominant age for the fighting game genre. Meaning, arcades were still packed. People went there to play Street Fighter versus going online. If you wanted a challenge, you had to hit the streets. The various arcade upgrades simply added some diversity to the experience rather than introduce a new game.
Street Fighter 5 was incomplete. Dead on arrival. Even Capcom apologized for the release. Even now as characters continue to be added, the price of admission is monetary payment or through game credits. Watching Evolution 2016 this year showcased the likes of Balrog, Guile, and Ibuki who many SFV players may not have been able to actually use. At least the added story mode came free…someone was listening perhaps.
In context of the overall point, how does one compare SFV to its predecessors? The game is incomplete and therefore its initial rating should be taken at face value. Sure the play mechanics can be criticized, but story mode, extras, character diversification and balance are all in question. All awaiting the final verdict of a finished product.
In Part II, we will look at the effect of DLC on the quality of games. A natural next step after considering the current state of ratings systems largely discounts the incomplete game release.