Back in the early days when we were just finding our feet with online gaming, the concept of downloadable content was enticing. Shortly after a game was released, you would get some new content outside of the main game and therefore prolonging the experience. Of course, expansions are nothing new and have been available since the 90s with massive retail releases for titles expanding the potential longevity of the game significantly. However, because the gaming industry can’t leave well enough alone, downloadable content has become corrupted and a shadow of its former self. There have been a lot of examples that puts the practice to shame, but I want to focus on one game’s DLC and that is The Witcher.
I bought Hearts of Stone, the first expansion for The Witcher 3, on a whim quite a while ago because it included physical Gwent cards and I just had to have those. I could have played it immediately after downloading it, but I chose to save it until after I finished my Death March (the highest difficulty of the game) new game plus playthrough. Since the highest difficulty isn’t the easiest of times, and the game is incredibly long, it took me quite a while before I could touch the Hearts of Stone expansion. However, fairly recently, I managed to finally dive in and the experience I found was something out of my best dreams.
Hearts of Stone astounded me with the pure quality it had on display. There’s some sections in the expansion that I would even attest are better than the main game. And it just kept coming. One amazing sequence of events after another. There were new features, new environments, new enemies and everything expanded on the already stellar main game. After I was finished with it, I sat back on my couch and breathed a sigh of contentment. Now this was well worth my time. And I paid 300 bucks for it, the same price for a decent indie game these days. The expansion already puts most AAA games to absolute shame just from its narrative alone. Moreover, it puts almost all DLC to shame.
DLC these days are but a shadow of their former self. Most titles resort to just releasing periodic map packs for their multiplayer component and if there is singleplayer DLC, which is admittedly a rarity, it’s but a derivative retelling of the base game. There’s hardly any excitement when it comes to DLC anymore and as a matter of fact, I personally haven’t bought DLC nearly as much as companies sometimes assume you would. We get inundated with season passes and promises of future content, but it’s hardly ever worth it. Some titles also feel like they’ve been stripped bare in order to make space for DLC. Games like Street Fighter V are particularly guilty of this.
There’s been some vestiges of good singleplayer downloadable content. In particular from BioWare, Bethesda and of course CD Projekt Red. They understand the significance of post-release content and how it should be an enriching experience in itself and not just a tacked-on afterthought to generate some additional revenue. Bethesda have gone a little off base with its smaller DLC packs for Fallout 4, but they still continue their tradition of delivering swell singleplayer experiences. They’re still going at it, so we need to evaluate them a bit later. But from what I saw, CD Projekt Red have nailed it in more ways than one.
Following the release of The Witcher 3, they continued providing players of all platforms with weekly DLC for free. Some were simple costume changes (that were pretty significant since you play with those characters for ages) and some were fully fledged quests that were well worth your time. What another developer would have charged through the nose for or limited to pre-order bonuses, CD Projekt Red gave everything out for free just to thank the community for putting faith in their game. No random costume bonuses or XP bonuses when you buy Mountain Dew flavoured Doritos. Just pure love for the people that used their hard earned money to buy their passion project.
Then they released their expansions, as I harped on about earlier. Fully-fledged, quality expansions that are way beyond their asking price that deliver hours upon hours of worthwhile content. No bullshit “here’s one mission with a new character and go on your way” was found here. There was care and love poured into this and it was palpable as you played it. But what is the main difference between CD Projekt Red and other developers and publishers? They published their own game. Almost like they were some huge indies.
But what is the main difference between CD Projekt Red and other developers and publishers that often mess up DLC? They published their own game. Almost like they were some huge indies. There was no pressure from publishers to shove extra content in or create an “intuitive system for content delivery” like what Evolve tried to do (how did that work out? You guys still enjoying Evolve?). They stuck to their principles and put the players first, not the bottomline. That’s the type of attitude that I desire from developers and publishers. Releasing extra content is just fine, like I said in the beginning, but when you start nickel and diming your way through a game’s launch by charging for grey coats, then you’re just wasting everyone’s time and money.
DLC is inherently finnicky. Only the true fans will invest more money into an already existing game. The method most developers and publishers use is to throw a veritable horde of stuff to the wall and hoping something sticks, which is obviously a delusional and dishonest practice. Maybe it does make them a ton of profit, but if they don’t want to completely lose their community, they will look inward and attempt to give us something worthwhile. But hoping is sometimes futile.
Latest posts by MG Thabo (see all)
- Video Game Review: Rocket League Collector’s Edition – Blasting Off Again - July 21, 2016
- Video Game Review: Valentino Rossi: The Game – Riding High - July 20, 2016
- Games: Thabo’s Tirades: The Witcher 3 Puts All DLC To Shame - July 8, 2016
- Editorial: Thabo’s Tirades: Why We Are Tired Of Modern Shooters - July 1, 2016
- Video Game News: Criterion Games’ Extreme Sports Title Has Been Canned - June 22, 2016