What We Think: How Much is Too Much for Paid DLC?

DLC price comparison: Modern Warfare 3 vs Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Downloadable Content (DLC) is hands-down one of the most controversial issues in gaming today. Proponents of DLC argue that the developers put additional work into the game and thus should be paid for their work. While this angle makes sense, opponents of paid DLC will simply counter that this content should have been shipped with the game to begin with, thereby removing the need to charge additional money for a game that players have already paid full price for.

Publishers like Capcom are certainly not helping matters when they ship DLC on the game disc, charging you a fee to simply unlock content that is already finished and included with the game you paid full price for.

You have games like Call of Duty charging $15.00 for four multiplayer maps while Valve Software invests money into the Steam Workshop where 800+ maps can be downloaded for free for anyone who purchases Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Most games hover somewhere in between the two of these ends of the spectrum. Opinions in the community are just as varied as publishers at times.

I decided to go around and gather up some opinions from the team who works on FPS General and other Curse properties to see what they think about paid DLC. How much is too much to pay for additional downloadable content? 

Without further ado, here is What We Think.

To better understand what paid DLC should cost, it’s instructive to look at the total cost of ownership of a title “the way the developer intended”. This means taking the sum of the initial retail purchase (if any, let’s not forget free to play titles), and all the various paid DLC or, oxymoronically, the paid content in free to play games.

Once we know these numbers we can simply compare the amount of content each game has to the subjective entertainment and hours of enjoyment we receive for that investment. This allows us to make an apples to apples comparison of widely varying genres and business models. To answer the question specifically we simply compare the experiences and the cost and make a judgement as informed consumers. I like to make my comparisons to Half Life as the gold standard, although that is quickly becoming so far removed from the norm, in terms of value, that it is an unrealistic comparison. Regardless, the hours of entertainment I got out of Half Life and its many free mods numbered in the hundreds, at least.

My $50 in 1998 stretched a whole lot further than most gaming dollars do today. I find that it gives me a unique perspective when considering game purchases, whether its a new champion in League of Legends, or a map pack for the latest Call of Duty.

Keep reading for more on what we think about paid DLC in modern video games!

On the topic of DLC, Kiwi took time earlier this month to discuss the recently released Tribes: Ascend GOTY Edition which delivers all of Tribes' DLC in a single-purchase.

Paid DLC will always have a stigma to it and I think that the most popular games will always overcharge for it, well, because they can. By no means do I agree with it, but at the same time, the only thing we can do is "vote with our wallets". Although the effect of that is highly debatable. The $15 price point, in my mind, is too much, but games like Call of Duty get away with it because it's been the norm for over 4 years. Then again, a game like Skyrim can also pump out $20 DLC, and most people are ok with it.

Why? Because it adds hours of great content that justifies the price tag.

Unfortunately the future is microtransactions in video games, especially mobile. We haven't seen this much in full fledge PC games, or big console games for that matter, but the tide has turned and DLC and IAPs seems to be the way the industry is heading.

We must also take into account how this all started. Just 10 years ago the acronym DLC almost didn't exist. It seems to have evolved from expansion packs(you never hear those words anymore) and the proliferation of high-speed internet. But while expansion packs were almost always the same price as the original, if not, they were $5-10 cheaper. They weren't $15 or $5 but they did provide a ton of content, and people were fine paying so much then.

For me, and I'm more of a casual PC gamer, DLC is just another way for developers to extend their universe and for gamers to experience more of a game they love. Nobody is forcing you to buy DLC, so if it's not your cup of tea, then just ignore them.

I on the other hand, will embrace our new DLC overlords and hope that they don't gouge the industry dry.

Paying for DLC is something that will always be hard to swallow. Once upon a time games came with free patches adding content that we are now being asked to pay for. When looking at the DLC trend, price will always be a hot button issue. It isn’t fair to say in general that DLC is overpriced or that it is a money grab.You have to look at value for money.

I will admit that every time I see another $15 map pack for Call of Duty or Battlefield I cringe a little. It means that to continue playing on most servers I will need to shell out more cash. While I enjoy the new maps, there isn’t a sense that I am getting a great new experience for my money. I am basically forced to pay $10 to $15 just to maintain the status quo.

However I never feel the same way about paying for DLC in Mass Effect 3 or Fallout New Vegas. I am excited, to have a new way to experience these worlds and flesh out the stories and characters in even more detail. Good DLC adds a lot of replay value to games. A game that normally merits 1 or 2 playthroughs to see all the content is now fun to play 5 or 6 times. The new content has not only brought in new story elements, but improved the old ones. This should be the purpose of DLC, to significantly enhance the user experience in both old and new content.

The cost of $10 to $20 is a small price to pay for the ability to experience a $60 game in a completely new way.

For me, the price I pay for downloadable content should directly reflect the amount and quality of content included in purchase.

When I look at something like Black Ops II: Revolution, I see five maps and a gun for $15.00. That is a completely and entirely unfair price, designed to do nothing more than push the boundaries of what customers are willing to pay for DLC. For $60.00, you get 38 weapons and 14 multiplayer maps. If you estimate the value of multiplayer at $20.00 (one third of the total price), that breaks down to roughly $0.40 per weapon or map.

At that price point, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Revolution should run players $2.40.

Comparatively, you have something like the Deluxe Bundle for Far Cry 3. For $9.99, players can upgrade their standard edition of the game to the Deluxe Edition, which gets them six singleplayer missions, four new rare animals to hunt, a bow, a flare gun as well as four separate pre-order bundles and all of the content that they included.

The Deluxe Bundle also includes the soundtrack to Far Cry 3 and a digital art book.

I will gladly pay $9.99 for that level of content, any day of the week. Hell, I'd pay more than that because the value is there to merit it.

Paid DLC is now a touchy subject in the game world. For every Valve-like title that offers huge, awesome content updates for free, there is a corresponding Activision-like title that wants to charge us a hefty sum for new content.

I firmly believe there should be some middle ground in this that allows us – the gamers – to get our moneys worth while also supporting continued development of a non-subscription based gaming title. While I don’t have the perfect answer, I know what I don’t want.

Furthermore, the biggest casualty to paid DLC is the creativity of the community.

Whenever a game plans to offer many DLC packs to boost their bottom line, they forbid the community from modding their product. Obviously allowing the community to freely create maps, mods, etc that would be offered for free would make buying additional content less appealing. However, what the developers and their money-hungry overlords are forgetting is that some of the greatest games of the last 15 years have been the result of modding. Furthermore, these mods sold a ton of extra games to people who were just interested in the mod. Some of the most obvious examples include the Counter-Strike mod for Half-Life, DotA for Warcraft 3, and DayZ for ARMA II. These games all included and encouraged modding, and the creativity of the community lead to some of the most memorable games we’ve ever seen, and increased sales of these games by a great deal.

The most recent example being DayZ saw a game, ARMA 2, near the end of its life cycle due to the development of ARMA 3 and its planned release under a year away. The DayZ mod turned ARMA 2 into a must have game and sold a bunch more copies as can be seen by its place near the top of Steam top sellers for many months.

Basically, I believe that first and foremost, games should not use DLC as a means to cut-off mod support. If they are intent on offering DLC, offer something unique for a reasonable price. If gamers enjoy a game, they want to support its continued development. They also don’t want to feel like they are forced to purchase the DLC in order to continue enjoying the game, and if they are, they don’t want to be price gouged.

Like I said, I have no clear answers, I just don’t want to feel exploited.



Now, we want to know what you guys think is an appropriate amount of money to pay for additional DLC. Do you bother with DLC? If so, why? If not, what would developers have to include to have it merit your purchase?


  • To post a comment, please or register a new account.
Posts Quoted:
Clear All Quotes