The DLC I’d Like To See

I’ve written before about how game developers are, for some reason, still reluctant to give us players control of how we use the content we’ve bought from them. Now, there’s a perfect solution that gives them financial incentive to cater to players like me, but it’s not yet being used to its fullest advantage.

Many of us — maybe even a quiet majority of us — who buy videogames are more tourists than explorers. We don’t need to master each and every game we play. We just want to get through them, picking up some skills and enjoying the highlights along the way. This is especially true for us gamers who work full time, have gotten married, and have less time to dedicate to each title we hope to play.

When I vacation in a new city, I take advantage of maps, books, and guided tours, and I don’t feel like I’m being shortchanged on the experience. I know it’s not the same as taking up residence, immersing myself in the culture, and learning about my environs through trial and error. But I don’t expect it to be. If I don’t have the money or time to go native, an assisted visit is still a major step up from vicariously traveling via a Rick Steves special or a magazine article.

I often play games like a tourist, too. There are plenty of titles that have inspired me to perfect my skills (e.g., Shadow of the Colossus, Gladius, all the Final Fantasy games, etc.). But with many games, I’m happy just to get through them — and to do so with a reasonable amount of speed and ease. If I need outside assistance, like walkthroughs or cheat codes, so be it.

As online access has become ubiquitous for this generation of consoles, publishers have started offering downloadable content (DLC) for their games. For a small fee (usually topping out at a few bucks), players can buy additional costumes, weapons, songs, and other items for games. So long as the add-on content isn’t stuff that should have been included in the game in the first place, I’m fine with the concept.

DLC could, and should, be the perfect vehicle for giving me the gameplay I want — and at an extra profit for the developers. But they haven’t gotten it quite right, at least not yet.

A couple of weeks ago, EA posted several DLC packages at the PlayStation Store for Dead Space. Some of them were pretty cool and useful. Eugene, who’s playing through my copy of the game, bought a supercharged version of the force gun, which is already one of Dead Space’s best weapons. Additional packages included upgraded armor and overpowered versions of the game’s other weapons.

Those packages are decent. I applaud EA for making some game-enhancing DLC available at all. Most games still haven’t latched onto the trend.

But EA didn’t go far enough in their efforts. They missed a shot at offering the one option I would have bought immediately: invincible armor. If you’re going to offer upgraded items, why not offer the ultimate in upgrades? Why only go partway?

I enjoyed Dead Space, but I probably won’t be replaying it. However, were invincibility available, I just might feel like revisiting the game, whether playing it seriously or just for laughs. It might be fun to put the game on Impossible difficulty and just run through it weaponless, killing everything with my bare hands. Or maybe I wouldn’t kill much of anything at all. I’d see how many creatures I could get to follow me through an entire level.

And it’s not just for replaying. Even for my first go-round, I would always purchase invincibility (or its offensive counterpart: weapons that kill everything onscreen in one shot) for those games that are too difficult or that take too long to finish in the first place.

Sometimes, I really do want to play through a game, but I don’t think it’s quite good enough that it’s worth spending more than a few weekend hours to suss out how to beat it (Conan and Viking come to mind). DLC could be the solution. Similarly, it’s a great way for publishers to make some money off of those players who rent or borrow a game and only have a limited time to finish it.

In the future, I hope developers will consider offering this kind of content. It’s worth it for players like me — and for them. Satisfied gamers who finish games quickly are customers who will be happy (and ready) to buy another game, soon!

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