Downloadable Content (DLC)

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What Is Downloadable Content?

Downloadable content (DLC) is additional (or add-on) content that becomes available after a video game has been released.

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DLC comes in various forms, ranging from in-game content like new characters, levels, modes, and weapons to cosmetic additions like outfits and skins.

Occasionally, publishers combine multiple DLCs, including those yet to be released, into a single package, which is sold at a discounted price compared to purchasing them individually.

This extra content can be offered for free or as a paid option, on consoles or on gaming setups. The inherent idea behind the content is to make the game more challenging by providing new possibilities for gamers to explore. This often has the dual benefit of retaining the attention of gamers and increasing the monetization channels.

When Did DLCs First Appear?

The concept of downloadable content in games made its debut in the early 1990s through the GameLine service. This allowed gamers to download games via their telephone lines.

Shortly after, the Sega Channel emerged as a successor to GameLine, permitting gamers to download games directly to their Sega Genesis consoles via cable lines.

During this period, game publishers started offering gamers additional content, such as new levels or maps. They swiftly recognized that gamers were willing to invest extra to access these DLC perks for their beloved games. This realization catalyzed the development of an ecosystem for additional game content.

Moreover, the hugely successful game ‘Total Annihilation’ launched in 1997, contributed to the rise of the downloadable content space. From then, gamers began distributing game modifications (mods) and maps online.

The subsequent rise of the internet towards the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century only further spurred the growth of the DLC industry.

Notable Controversies

Downloadable content satisfies the gamer’s zest to be adventurous and engaged. It also provides game publishers a window to keep their audience engaged till they release a new game.

However, it does come with its share of challenges:

  • Firstly, not all DLC perks are free. Some game publishers charge premium value for releasing extra content on their games, with some reaching the cost of the original game itself. According to a Wired report, about 32% of surveyed gamers said that many DLCs are too expensive.
  • According to many, DLC provides an uneven playing climate to gamers with the funds to purchase these expensive game add-ons. They easily defeat their opponents due to access to unlimited power-ups, mods, weapons, and loot, putting those without the funds at a disadvantage.
  • In addition, gamers have accused game publishers like Electronic Arts of anti-gamer practices. Many believe these companies intentionally withhold these game add-ons and release incomplete games to monetize down the line.

DLCs in 2023

The DLC climate has been rapidly changing in the last couple of years. Nowadays, gamers have access to premium game add-ons, with GTA5 game add-ons and mods being easily accessible.

The advancement of technology has enabled more gaming enthusiasts to share and distribute DLC perks freely among themselves. However, for the publishers, paid DLCs are — if the quality is there — a great form of revenue.

Platforms like Steam are the main hubs for facilitating microtransactions, offering easy access to both free and paid DLC, and significantly broadening the range of high-quality game add-ons available to gamers.

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Jimmy Aki
Crypto & Blockchain Writer
Jimmy Aki
Crypto & Blockchain Writer

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Jimmy previously worked for BeInCrypto, Bitcoin Magazine, Decrypt, Cryptonews and other major publications. Alongside writing for Techopedia, Jimmy is also a trained economist, accountant and blockchain instructor with hands-on work experience in the financial sector.