Day One DLC: The Hate, The Reasoning and The Understanding.

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of DLC. Whilst there are many games that I enjoy going back to it’s not usually because there’s a sliver more of content available for them, it’s because the games themselves warranted it. The trend now however is to continue to release bite sized chunks of additional game play after it’s been released rather than the more traditional model of expansion packs which delivered what amounted to a game in its own right. Still there have been some notable exceptions like the recent Deus Ex: Human Revolution Missing Link DLC which I’ve heard is quite lengthy and well worth the play through (I’ve still yet to play it, though). What irks me, and most gamers, is when a company releases DLC on the same day that they release the full game and an upcoming release has brought this issue to the table once again.

My first encounter with day one DLC wasn’t that long ago, it was with Dragon Age: Origins. I was a fair way through the game, not completely understanding the camp mechanic, when I saw a new character appear. Starting the conversation with them led to a quest (like it almost always does) but before he would accept it I was told that I’d need to pony up the cash to play it. Since the quest didn’t appear necessary and I had little interest in paying another $10 for a game I had just bought I left the optional DLC by the wayside and never looked back. Since then I’ve had several encounters with games that have had day one or close to it DLC and every time my reaction has been the same.

There is one exception though. Since my tendency is to buy the collector’s edition of games I’m usually treated to a free ride for most early DLC. This hasn’t changed my opinion on it though and in fact my experience with such DLC has reinforced my original stance that of if the game developers have time to develop early DLC then it should probably be included as part of the game. One of my all time favourite games will soon be releasing a sequel however and the outrage from the day one DLC has revealed that my current position might be somewhat ill informed.

The game in question is Mass Effect 3. Long time readers will know that my fanboyism for this game approaches near ridiculous levels: I bought a Xbox360 just to play it (I’ve bought other games for it, but make no mistake that Xbox360 was there for one reason only), I’ve got multiple characters and each time I’ve bought the collector’s edition. Had I done a Game of the Year post for 2010 it is quite likely that Mass Effect 2 would have come out on top. What I didn’t mention at the time was that there was some day one DLC included and whilst I did play it I didn’t feel like it added anything (nor distracted from) to the main core of the game. Indeed it could have been left out entirely and I wouldn’t have noticed a difference.

It has been revealed that Mass Effect 3 will have day one DLC, free to collectors and charged to everyone else. This put the community up in arms with many (myself included) wondering why this wasn’t part of the core game. Bioware came out and defended it fervently and revealed a point that I hadn’t really considered. The certification process for consoles is a long one, filled with all sorts of radical testing like clicking buttons thousands of times to ensure most of the bugs have been stamped out. This takes approximately 3 months and during that time many publishers elect to have the developers work on DLC rather than move them onto other projects (or do nothing at all). Since there’s less certification required to release DLC you then end up with a finished DLC product right on release day, much to the dismay of the fans.

That’s changed my view on day one DLC significantly, but it probably won’t change my purchasing patterns. Indeed I can understand why people are particularly frustrated about this particular DLC, it seems like a particular character (who’s previously appeared in the series) will only be available through it. That’s enough to put some people off it and I wouldn’t be too happy with somewhat plot critical elements being thrown into paid for DLC either. If it wasn’t included in the collector’s edition I certainly wouldn’t be bothered with it and my review later would reflect that.

For this case at least it looks like day one DLC didn’t come at the cost of the game itself but the gaming community is going to have a hard time swallowing that line from every publisher. It might then be worth delaying DLC to some time after the initial release in order to avoid this kind of negative publicity. Still I don’t have the numbers on this and if day one DLC works financially then you can bet on seeing more games with it in the future. I may not support it financially but so long as the core game isn’t affected by it I won’t say anything bad about it, but if  said DLC does impact on the game you can rest assured I’ll give them a thorough panning on here.


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  1. EA and Bioware have been doing this for a while (Dragon Age 1 & 2, Mass Effect 2) however generally the DLC is included with the base game and then with second hand copies you need to purchase the DLC. The character included in DA1 was one of the better ones so it would have been a pity to play it without. I gather you didn’t encounter Shale?

    The mercanary in ME2 wasn’t as pivitol and frankly if I didn’t ensure all my squadmates survived he would have been the first to go. DA2 was rushed and the DLC at start of games (whether you played with Sebastian or not) or played the DLC after didn’t really effect the ‘waves’ of problems the game had.

    In this case ME3 you need the Special Collectors Edition or you need to purchase it. Now if you’re the fanboy you mention you are, you may(should) have picked up the race of this ‘add-on’. If not, I won’t say but it definitly wouldn’t have been an afterthought from Bioware.

    Did you play the demo of ME3? I still think the dialogue of Male Sheppard is cheesier then Independence Day. However I will still buy and play the third game. As long as they remove that mining scan which blighted ME2. In my second playthrough I got my MP3 player and listened to music whilst searching for them.

    Personally I thought the ‘Missing Link’ was well done. Certainly loved the main games. The removal of ‘boss fights’ certainly helped the DLC but it was a pity it didn’t seamlessly connect into the main game and was a standalone.

  2. I did get Shale in my party as I pre-ordered the standard edition of the game which gave me access to it. There was some other DLC available though, can’t remember exactly what it was, but that was the one I decided to pass on.

    I haven’t played the demo as I’m saving myself for the full game so I’ll have to see how the dialogue pans out this time around. Hopefully they take out that horrible scanning mechanic as it was probably the worst time sink in the game, bar none.

    That’s an interesting view point on the Missing Link DLC, I really should give it a shot.

  3. With Dragon Age that was probably Warden’s keep DLC. You’re right it didn’t warrant you buying it to get more out of the game. Ok lore and gave you some nice weapons and armour (not really needed) but it gave you a storage chest (needed in main game).

    I bought the next DLC Return to Ostagar and decided I would buy no more. That was really poor. Generally in Dragon Age DLC the weapons are all scaled to your level, so there’s never any point doing the DLC early because weapons you find two levels later are always better.

    The other thing about Deus Ex HR that isn’t really addressed is if your game style is ‘pacifist and hacker’ you’re still over powered in abilities compared to the ‘shoot first and ask questions’ later player. You should get XP for using codes you’ve found. You miss out on XP otherwise. Still great game.

  4. That’s what I figured. I had a few friends who did buy the DLC and it never really came up in the discussions we had so I didn’t think I was missin out on much. I had heard pretty positive things about Return to Ostagar though, but I haven’t played it myself.

    Steam just had a sale on Deus Ex: Human Revolution including the Missing Link DLC. For $5 I reckon it would be worth it, look for the review sometime in the future 😉

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