Downloadable content

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Downloadable content (DLC) is additional content created for an already released video game, distributed through the Internet by the game's publisher. It is a form of video game monetization [1] , enabling the publisher to gain additional revenue from a title after it has been purchased, often using some type of microtransaction system.

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.

Internet Global system of connected computer networks

The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail, telephony, and file sharing.

Video game monetization is the process that an video game publisher can use to generate revenue from a video game product. The methods of monetization may vary between games, especially when they come from different genres or platforms, but they all serve the same purpose to return money to the game developers, copyright owners, and other stakeholders. As the monetization methods continue to diversify, they also affect the game design in a way that sometimes leads to criticism.

Contents

Downloadable content can be of several types, ranging from aesthetic changes for a character, or new objects or challenges, to expansion packs adding new levels, game modes or a whole new storyline. Downloadable content became prevalent in the 21st century, and especially with the proliferation of Internet-enabled, sixth-generation video game consoles. It has become common practice to re-release games in the form of special editions incorporating previously released DLC along with the main title.

An expansion pack, expansion set, supplement, or simply expansion is an addition to an existing role-playing game, tabletop game, video game or collectible card game. These add-ons usually add new game areas, weapons, objects, characters, or an extended storyline to an already-released game. While board game expansions are typically designed by the original creator, video game developers sometimes contract out development of the expansion pack to a third-party company, it may choose to develop the expansion itself, or it may do both. Board games and tabletop RPGs may have been marketing expansions since the 1970s, and video games have been releasing expansion packs since the 1980s, early examples being the Dragon Slayer games Xanadu Scenario II and Sorcerian. Other terms for the concept are module and, in certain games' marketing, adventure.

Level (video gaming) in a video game, space available to the player in completing an objective

A level, map, area, stage, world, track, board, floor, zone, phase, mission, episode, or course in a video game is the total space available to the player during the course of completing a discrete objective. Video game levels generally have progressively increasing difficulty to appeal to players with different skill levels. Each level presents new content and challenges to keep player's interest high. The use of levels in video games dates back to Namco's shoot 'em up Galaxian, released in 1979 during the golden age of video arcade games.

In the history of video games, the sixth-generation era refers to the computer and video games, video game consoles, and handheld gaming devices available at the turn of the 21st century, starting in 1998. Platforms in the sixth generation include consoles from four companies: the Sega Dreamcast (DC), Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2), Nintendo GameCube (GC), and Microsoft Xbox. This era began on November 27, 1998, with the Japanese release of the Dreamcast, which was joined by the PlayStation 2 in March 2000, and the GameCube and Xbox in 2001. The Dreamcast was the first to be discontinued, in 2001. The GameCube was next, in 2007, the Xbox in 2009, and the PlayStation 2 in 2013. Meanwhile, the seventh generation of consoles started in November 2005 with the launch of the Xbox 360.

Since the popularization of microtransactions in online distribution platforms such as Steam, the term DLC has come to be incorrectly popularized as a synonymous for any form of paid content in video games, regardless of whether or not they constitute the download of new content.

Steam (software) Video game platform

Steam is a video game digital distribution platform developed by Valve Corporation. It was launched in September 2003 as a way for Valve to provide automatic updates to their games, but eventually expanded to include non-Valve games from third-party publishers. Steam offers digital rights management (DRM), matchmaking servers, video streaming, and social networking services. It also provides the user with installation and automatic updating of games, and community features such as friends lists and groups, cloud saving, and in-game voice and chat functionality.

History

Precursors to DLC

The earliest form of downloadable content were offerings of full games, such as on the Atari 2600's GameLine service, which allowed users to download games using a telephone line. A similar service, Sega Channel, allowed for the downloading of games to the Sega Genesis over a cable line. While the GameLine and Sega Channel services allowed for the distribution of entire titles, they did not provide downloadable content for existing titles.

GameLine was a dialup game distribution service for the Atari 2600, developed and operated by Control Video Corporation (CVC). Subscribers could install the proprietary modem and storage cartridge in their home game console, accessing the GameLine service to download games over a telephone line. GameLine had an exclusive selection of games, and its pioneering business model eventually gave rise to America Online.

Sega Channel online game service

Sega Channel was an online game service developed by Sega for the Genesis video game console, serving as a content delivery system. Launching in December 1994, Sega Channel was provided to the public by TCI and Time Warner Cable through cable television services by way of coaxial cable. It was a pay to play service, through which customers could access Genesis games online, play game demos, and get cheat codes. Lasting until July 31, 1998, Sega Channel operated three years after the release of Sega's next generation console, the Sega Saturn. Though criticized for its poorly timed launch and high subscription fee, Sega Channel has been praised for its innovations in downloadable content and impact on online services for video games.

Sega Genesis Fourth-generation home video game console and fourth developed by Sega

The Sega Genesis, known as the Mega Drive in regions outside of North America, is a 16-bit home video game console developed and sold by Sega. The Genesis is Sega's third console and the successor to the Master System. Sega released it as the Mega Drive in Japan in 1988, followed by North America as the Genesis in 1989. In 1990, it was distributed as the Mega Drive by Virgin Mastertronic in Europe, Ozisoft in Australasia, and Tectoy in Brazil. In South Korea, it was distributed by Samsung as the Super Gam*Boy and later the Super Aladdin Boy.

On personal computers

As the popularity and speed of internet connections rose, so did the popularity of using the internet for digital distribution of media. User-created game mods and maps were distributed exclusively online, as they were mainly created by people without the infrastructure capable of distributing the content through physical media.

A mod is an alteration by players or fans of a video game that changes one or more aspects of a video game, such as how it looks or behaves. Mods may range from small changes and tweaks to complete overhauls, and can extend the replay value and interest of the game.

In 1997, Cavedog offered a new unit every month as free downloadable content for their real-time strategy computer game Total Annihilation . [1] [2]

Real-time strategy (RTS) is a sub-genre of strategy video games in which the game does not progress incrementally in turns. This is distinguished from turn-based strategy (TBS), in which all players take turns when playing.

<i>Total Annihilation</i> video game

Total Annihilation is a real-time strategy video game created by Cavedog Entertainment, a sub-division of Humongous Entertainment, and released on September 30, 1997 by GT Interactive for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS. Two expansion packs were released, The Core Contingency on April 30, 1998 and Battle Tactics on June 30, 1998. After the closure of the Cavedog Entertainment in 1999, the intellectual property fell to Infogrames.

On consoles

The Dreamcast was the first console to feature online support as a standard; DLC was available, though limited in size due to the narrowband connection and the size limitations of a memory card. These online features were still considered a breakthrough in video games, but the competing PlayStation 2 did not ship with a built-in network adapter. [3]

With the advent of the Xbox, Microsoft was the second company to implement downloadable content. Many original Xbox Live titles, including Splinter Cell , Halo 2 , and Ninja Gaiden , offered varying amounts of extra content, available for download through the Xbox Live service. Most of this content, with the notable exception of content for Microsoft-published titles, was available for free. [4]

With the Xbox 360 introduction in 2005, Microsoft integrated downloadable content more fully into their console, devoting an entire section of the console's user interface to the Xbox Live Marketplace. Microsoft believed that publishers would benefit by offering small pieces of content at a small cost ($1 to $5), rather than full expansion packs (~$20), as this would allow players to pick and chose what content they desired, providing revenue to the publishers. They also partially removed the need for credit cards by implementing their own Microsoft Points currency, which could be bought either with a credit card online or as redeemable codes in game stores to avoid the banking fees associated with the small price points. [5] This is a strategy that would be adopted by Nintendo with Nintendo Points and Sony with the PlayStation Network Card.

One of the most infamous examples of DLC on consoles was the Horse Armor DLC package released on the Xbox Live Marketplace in 2006 for the Bethesda Softworks game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion that fans criticized as useless and overpriced. [6] However, by 2009, the Horse Armor DLC was one of the top ten content packs that Bethesda had sold, which justified the DLC model for future games. [5]

Sony adopted the same approach with their downloadable hub, the PlayStation Store. With Gran Turismo HD , Sony planned an entirely barebones title, with the idea of requiring the bulk of the content to be purchased separately via many separate online microtransactions. [7] The project was later canceled. Nintendo has featured a sparser amount of downloadable content on their Wii Shop Channel, the bulk of which is accounted for by digital distribution of emulated Nintendo titles from previous generations.

Music video games such as titles from the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises have taken significant advantage of downloadable content. Harmonix claimed that Guitar Hero II would feature "more online content than anyone has ever seen in a game to this date." [8] Rock Band features the largest number of downloadable items of any console video game, with a steady number of new songs that were added weekly between 2007 and 2013. Acquiring all the downloadable content for Rock Band would, as of July 12, 2012, cost $9,150.10. [9]

On handhelds

Nokia phones of the late 1990s and early 2000s shipped with side-scrolling shooter Space Impact, available on various models. With the introduction of WAP in 2000, additional downloadable content for the game, with extra levels, became available.

Through use of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection users can download DLC to the Nintendo DS handheld for certain games. A good example is Picross DS , in which users can download puzzle "packs" of classic puzzles from previous Picross games (such as Mario's Picross ) [10] as well as downloadable user generated content. [11] Professor Layton and the Curious Village was thought to have "bonus puzzles" that can be "downloaded" using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, however connecting to Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection simply unlocked the puzzles which were already stored in the game. [12] Similarly, Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 had hidden costumes that were unlocked using DS Download Stations for a limited time.

Due to the Nintendo DS's use of cartridges and lack of a hard drive there is limited space for DLC and developers would have to plan for storage space on the cartridge. Picross DS itself only has room for ten puzzle packs, and Professor Layton's and Ouendan 2's DLC is already on the cartridge and is simply unlocked with a weekly code.

The Nintendo DS's downloadable content is distinct as it is currently being offered at no cost. However, the Nintendo DSi contains a Shop similar to that of the Wii that contains games and applications, most of which must be bought using Nintendo Points. It is also worth noting that, using the Wii's Nintendo Channel, various DS files, such as game demos and videos can be downloaded onto the Wii console and transferred via wireless to a DSi handheld.

The Nintendo 3DS supports downloadable content as of update (4.0.0.7U), the first title to support it being Theatrhythm Final Fantasy [13] in the form of extra songs. Other games to support DLC quickly followed, such as Fire Emblem: Awakening , and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS .

Starting with Apple's iPhone OS version 3.0 release, and Apple's iPhone 4, downloadable content became available for the platform via applications bought from the App Store. While this ability was initially only available to developers for paid applications, Apple eventually allowed for developers to offer this in free applications as well in October 2009. [14]

On-disc DLC

Controversy has arisen when games have charged the user for access to content that was in the game's original distribution. This originated the term "on-disc DLC". [15] Some games include some portions of planned DLC on-disc; a notable example is Mass Effect 3 by BioWare and Electronic Arts. The game disc/distribution included portions of the content in the "From Ashes" DLC; when the user purchased the DLC, it unlocked this content and downloaded additional patches to complete the content. According to Electronic Arts, this on-disc DLC was done because they needed to have the appropriate hooks ready to go within the main game, comparing the content on-disc to scaffolding for constructing a building. [16] Specifically, because the content was planned to add a new playable character which then could be played in the main campaign, they needed to have that content on-disc for all. [17] From BioWare's perspective, having some of that support already in the game allowed them to finish off the main content of Mass Effect 3 and turning it over to Electronic Arts to publish on schedule, thus allowing them to focus on completing the "From Ashes" content at their own pace, which would be downloaded once the DLC was purchased. [18] [17] However, players felt they were being cheated by Electronic Arts since the majority of content was already on disc, and believed Electronic Arts had simply locked the content away behind a microtransaction to get more money from players. [18]

Monetization

Downloadable content is sometimes offered for a price. Since Facebook games popularized the business model of microtransactions, [19] some have criticized downloadable content as being overpriced and an incentive for developers to leave items out of the initial release. [20]

In addition to individual content downloads, video game publishers sometimes offer a "season pass", which allows users to pre-order a selection of upcoming content over a specific time period, and ensuring the customer's ability to immediately obtain the content upon release. While a season pass is often a way to get a discount when compared to purchasing each DLC individually, critics argue that you are essentially paying upfront for something that you don't know what it will be. Downloadable content can also be included in a game purchase, such as with pre-order bonuses or bundled into re-releases of the full game, often branded as a "Game of the Year" edition or similar.

Certain items are provided for free. Providing free DLC can also provide revenue for game companies at the expense of users' convenience. For example, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm for the PlayStation 3 was shipped with certain features disabled. However, users can freely download packs to re enable the missing content from the PlayStation Store. Consequently, users are exposed to advertisements and potential purchases. There is also the additional marketing benefit that users may believe that there is continuing support for the product if there is an apparent flow of such patches. Some games have free DLC content to promote other games. The Wii U version of Sonic Lost World features crossovers with Yoshi's Island and The Legend of Zelda to promote Nintendo titles.

Where a normal software disc may allow its license sold or traded, DLC is generally locked to a specific user's account and does not come with the ability to transfer that license to another user. For instance, non-transferable DLCs were used in EA's "Project Ten Dollars" as mechanism to fight the used games market. [21] [22]

Microsoft has been known to require developers to charge for their content, when the developers would rather release their content for free. [23] Some content has even been withheld from release because the developer refused to charge the amount Microsoft required. [23] [24] Epic Games, known for continual support of their older titles with downloadable updates, believed that releasing downloadable content over the course of a game's lifetime helped increase sales throughout, and had succeeded well with that business-model in the past, but was required to implement fees for downloads when releasing content for their Microsoft-published game, Gears of War . [23]

As of 2010 the sale of DLC makes up around 20% of video games sales, a substantial portion of a developer's profit margin. Developers are beginning to use the sale of DLC for an already successful game series to fund the development of new IP’s or sequels to existing games. [25]

Availability

While some content is delivered exclusively through online services, other extra content may already be on the game disc. Extra content on a game disc is inaccessible until it is unlocked by an online service (named "disc-locked" content [26] ). Some criticism stems from the fact that many of the items sold on sites like Xbox Live Marketplace are not downloadable content at all, but are instead content keys used to unlock content already on the game disc. Because of this, many people feel as if they are paying to unlock content they already purchased when they bought the game itself. For instance, criticism arose over the downloadable characters for Street Fighter X Tekken , which were found to already be on the game discs. [27] [28]

Publishers may also choose to re-release certain titles with previously available downloadable content bundled. There is also criticism concerning the exclusivity of downloadable contents, as some of these contents are frequently added to new disc version of the game. Buyers of the Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition would have access to contents previously exclusives as downloadable content without having to pay any extra fee. [29] The Star Wars: The Force Unleashed re-release "Ultimate Sith Edition" featured an additional level that was later released as DLC, despite LucasArts stating it was exclusive to the re-released version. [30]

There have also been cases where DLCs were intended to be part of the main game, but they were later stripped out of it in order to be sold as a separate feature. Tomb Raider: Underworld has been criticized for providing two DLCs, exclusive to the Xbox 360, that were supposedly removed from the original game. [31] [32] The Sims 4: My First Pet was likewise criticised for containing items that had seemingly been removed from the Cats & Dogs expansion, with the DLC requiring the downloadable expansion pack in order to work. PCGamesN described it as "a stuff pack for an expansion pack". [33]

In other media

While video games are the origins of downloadable content, with movies, books and music also becoming more popular in the digital sphere, experimental DLC has also been attempted. Amazon's Kindle service for example allows updating ebooks, which allows authors to not only update and correct work, but also add content.

Related Research Articles

A video game console is a computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game that one or more people can play.

Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection

Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection was an online multiplayer gaming service run by Nintendo to provide free online play in compatible Nintendo DS and Wii games. The service included the company's Wii Shop Channel and DSi Shop game download services. It also ran features for the Wii and Nintendo DS systems.

Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) is a digital video game download service available through the Xbox Games Store, Microsoft's digital distribution network for the Xbox 360. It focuses on smaller downloadable games from both major publishers and independent game developers. Titles range from classic console and arcade video games, to new games designed from the ground up for the service. Games available through the XBLA service range from $5–20 in price, and as of October 2016, there have been 719 Xbox Live Arcade titles released for the Xbox 360. Prior to the Xbox 360, "Xbox Live Arcade" was the name for an online distribution network on the original Xbox, which was replaced by the Xbox Live Marketplace.

Xbox Games Store is a digital distribution platform used by Microsoft's Xbox One and Xbox 360 video game consoles. The service allows users to download or purchase video games, add-ons for existing games, game demos along with other miscellaneous content such as gamer pictures and Dashboard themes.

<i>Picross DS</i> puzzle video game

Picross DS (ピクロスDS) is a puzzle video game developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS handheld video game console. It is the second Picross game to be released by Nintendo in Europe and North America after Mario's Picross suffered a commercial failure in regions outside Japan, where many Picross games have been released for several Nintendo consoles. Like other Picross games, it presents the player with a series of nonogram logic puzzles to solve. It was first released in Japan, and was later released in North America, Europe and Australia.

Zoo Tycoon is a series of business simulation video games. The games focus around building and running successful zoo scenarios. The series was initially developed by Blue Fang Games and published by Microsoft Studios who later in 2001-2008 went on to create two stand-alone video games and seven expansion packs for PC and Macintosh platforms. In 2013, Microsoft Studios released a new Zoo Tycoon game, developed by Frontier Developments for Xbox One and Xbox 360. An enhanced version of the Xbox game, Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection, was released for Windows 10 and the Xbox One on October 31, 2017.

<i>Rock Band</i> series of music video games

Rock Band is a series of music video games developed by Harmonix and MTV Games, and distributed by Electronic Arts for the Nintendo DS, iOS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PSP, Wii, Xbox One and Xbox 360 game systems. The series, inspired by Harmonix's previous efforts on the Guitar Hero series, allows up to four players to simulate the performance of popular rock music songs by playing with controllers modeled after musical instruments. Players can play the lead guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, and drums parts to songs, as well as sing into a USB microphone. Players are scored on their ability to match scrolling musical notes while playing instruments, and by their ability to match the singer's pitch on vocals.

The Rock Band series of music video games supports downloadable songs for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii versions through the consoles' respective online services. Users can download songs on a track-by-track basis, with many of the tracks also offered as part of a "song pack" or complete album at a discounted rate. These packs are available for the Wii only on Rock Band 3. Most downloadable songs are playable within every game mode, including the Band World Tour career mode. All downloadable songs released before October 26, 2010, are cross-compatible between Rock Band, Rock Band 2 and Rock Band 3, while those after only work with Rock Band 3. Certain songs deemed "suitable for all ages" by Harmonix are also available for use in Lego Rock Band.

Game Room video game

Game Room was a social gaming service for the Xbox 360 video game system, Microsoft Windows PCs, and Windows Phone 7. Launched on March 24, 2010, Game Room let players download classic video games and compete against each other for high scores. Players on both Xbox 360 and Windows PCs could access Game Room through their respective versions of Microsoft's Live online services.

The Rock Band series of music video games supports downloadable songs for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii versions through the consoles' respective online services. Users can download songs on a track-by-track basis, with many of the tracks also offered as part of a "song pack" or complete album at a discounted rate. These packs are available for the Wii only on Rock Band 3. Most downloadable songs are playable within every game mode, including the Band World Tour career mode. All downloadable songs released before October 26, 2010 are cross-compatible between Rock Band, Rock Band 2 and Rock Band 3, while those after only work with Rock Band 3. Certain songs deemed "suitable for all ages" by Harmonix are also available for use in Lego Rock Band.

In the video game industry, digital distribution is the process of delivering video game content as digital information, without the exchange or purchase of new physical media. This process has existed since the early 1980s, but it was only with network advancements in bandwidth capabilities in the early 2000s that digital distribution became more prominent as a method of selling games. Currently, the process is dominated by online distribution over broadband internet.

Nintendo eShop digital application distribution platform for the Nintendo 3DS, Wii U and Switch

The Nintendo eShop is a digital distribution service powered by the Nintendo Network for the Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch and by a dedicated online infrastructure for the Nintendo Switch. Launched in June 2011 on the Nintendo 3DS, the eShop was enabled by the release of a system update that added the functionality to the Nintendo 3DS's HOME Menu. It is the successor to both the Wii Shop Channel and DSi Shop. Unlike on the Nintendo 3DS, the eShop was made available on the launch date of the Wii U, although a system update is required in order to access it. It is also a multitasking application, which means it is easily accessible even when a game is already running in the background through the system software, though this feature is exclusive to the Wii U and the Nintendo Switch. The Nintendo eShop features downloadable games, demos, applications, streaming videos, consumer rating feedback, and other information on upcoming game releases.

Online console gaming involves connecting a console to a network over the Internet for services. Through this connection, it provides users the ability to play games with other users online, in addition to other online services.

The Rock Band series of music video games supports downloadable songs for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii versions through the consoles' respective online services. Users can download songs on a track-by-track basis, with many of the tracks also offered as part of a "song pack" or complete album at a discounted rate. These packs are available for the Wii only on Rock Band 3. Most downloadable songs are playable within every game mode, including the Band World Tour career mode. All downloadable songs released before October 26, 2010 are cross-compatible between Rock Band, Rock Band 2 and Rock Band 3, while those after only work with Rock Band 3. All songs that are available to Rock Band 3 will be playable in Rock Band Blitz. Certain songs deemed "suitable for all ages" by Harmonix are also available for use in Lego Rock Band.

Xbox is a video gaming brand created and owned by Microsoft. It represents a series of video game consoles developed by Microsoft, with three consoles released in the sixth, seventh, and eighth generations, respectively. The brand also represents applications (games), streaming services, an online service by the name of Xbox Live, and the development arm by the name of Xbox Game Studios. The brand was first introduced in the United States in November 2001, with the launch of the original Xbox console.

References

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