Writer's Note: This article will contain spoilers in some fashion. You have been warned.
It was just the other day as I was downloading a discounted version of Read Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, that the now age old argument of DLC for video games really hit home for me. I've downloaded both full games and add-on content for existing games before, but I'd never really given thought to it. But I've decided that DLC can be both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, if developers are in a rush, they can cut some of the content and release a shortened game to the masses. The developer can then release the excised content at a later date and charge money for rabbid gamers to access said content. Companies like Bungie and Infinity Ward release a few extra maps and expect us to shell out fifteen dollars for them.
This is wrong, in my humble opinion. If a developer is feeling the crunch, has already delayed the game a number of times, and has no wish to delay the game further for fear of it falling off of gamer's radars, then I feel they are justified in eliminating content if it won't hamper or break the game. If they then release the content for free at a later date, given that it was supposed to be part of the main game in the first place, great. Just don't charge gamers for it.
On the other hand, DLC can increase the longevity of a game and keep gamers coming back to their favorite titles. Undead Nightmare for Red Dead Redemption and Lair of the Shadow Broker for Mass Effect 2 are both prime examples of well executed DLC content.
Undead Nightmare provides an already rich game with an entirely new story to play through, as John Marston and others fight off zombie hordes. It is clear Rockstar pulled out all the stops, not skimping in any aspect of development. And this isn't the first time Rockstar has done this, either. Rockstar did the same thing with their expansions of Grand Theft Auto IV with the Lost and the Damned and the Ballad of Gay Tony. Rockstar gets it: premium content for the same fifteen dollars as the aforementioned multiplayer map packs.
The Lair of the Shadow Broker sets events up for the start of Mass Effect 3, reuniting Shepard with Liara T'Soni, his Asari ally from the first Mass Effect. Liara shows up in Mass Effect 2 originally as an information broker, but you never get the opportunity to make her part of your squad. Lair adds on a good 1 - 3 hours of gameplay onto a game that already takes around thirty plus hours to complete. It even gives you the opportunity to either rekindle the relationship with Liara if you romanced her in the first Mass Effect, or gives you the opportunity to start up a romantic relationship if you hadn't before. It also introduces a brand new race to the Mass Effect universe: the cunning, ruthless and frightening-to-behold Yahg. Even Krogan are dwarfed by the Yahg's stature.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have companies like Bethesda and Capcom, releasing entirely cosmetic DLC that in no way adds to the way a game plays or its story. I am referring here to the ability to give your horse armor in Oblivion and the ability to give fighters in Street Fighter IV new attire. Bioware did this with Mass Effect 2, as well, but at least they also released non-vapid content for their game.
Then there was that whole situation with Resident Evil 5, where a game mode that should have been in the retail release was released later, and for a price at that. The very idea is ludicrous and smacks strongly of greed and laziness. We as gamers can be a very vocal lot, and we should be even more vocal when it comes to our favorite past time. We need to let companies know with our wallets what is acceptable for DLC and what isn't. More companies should be taking after the likes of Rockstar and Bioware, and releasing more content for the same amount of money and lowering the cost on overpriced map packs.
DLC is here to stay, whether we like it or not. What we need to do is to show companies what we think the right and wrong ways to release and market DLC should be. Be smart about your purchases, folks.