Expansions Back Then and DLCs Now
Peter Donnell / 2 years ago
Steam’s holiday promotion was the perfect time to buy a present for my brother. He is a 45 year old father, passionate for first person shooters. Borderlands has been his favorite for years – not the Pre-Sequel which, although fun to play, somehow failed to deliver. I gave him a gift of Borderlands (the one with all the DLCs included) and Borderlands 2 with a handful (not all) of the expansion packs included. But there are still a series of DLCs that I can give him. This makes it easier for me to decide what to give him for his upcoming birthday, but pisses me off at the same time. Why do game developers expect me to constantly pump more and more cash into their franchise?
I see downloadable content packs the desktop equivalent of in-app purchases. No matter if you play online slots, crush candy or blow up a flower garden, you’ll always be presented with special offers on infinite lives for a time, gold coins or other in-game benefits. They cost you a tiny amount, and will make your gameplay easier. And offer you a money-bought advantage over players who don’t spend on such games due to a variety of reasons.
Back in the day, during the “golden era” of gaming (and by this I refer to the time when today’s most successful franchises were at their humble beginnings), an expansion to a game meant not just a handful of new character models and items, but a complete new story. I refer to StarCraft’s Brood War, with a complete set of three new single player campaigns. I refer to Quake’s mission packs, the Scourge of Armagon and Dissolutions of Eternity. I refer to Doom 3’s Resurrection of Evil. These were all complete packages of content and story that stood their ground as individual games.
Compare these to the Borderlands DLCs I recently purchased – Headhunter 1, 2, 3 and 4. I don’t say they cost a lot (I bought them for a “holiday special” price, with a 60% discount), but they cost too much for the extra content they delivered. I played through each of them in one day. One. Day. OK, my Mechromancer is now at level 40, which is pretty advanced, but still… one day? I expected much more from four (!) downloadable content packs.
OK, I know, my expectations are high. I can’t help it – I was raised in different times. Back in my time expansions added whole new worlds to the original game, not just a few extra weapons, skins (which are useless, since I never even see my character) and other useless things. Expansions were about added value, while today’s DLCs feel much more like just ways to ensure a continuous revenue stream for developers. Which might be indirectly good for me, as a gamer, but still annoys the hell out of me.