And the game did not just turn incomplete because the developer just released something new for it.
DLC is big business these days. In the last 15 years, they’ve grown from the occasional horse armor, to being the main income source for some games. And with the increase in popularity of DLC, there’s also been a slightly worrying trend among consumers, to view games as “incomplete” unless they own every single piece of DLC. Yes, even that cosmetic DLC for a character they’ll never play, or a weapon for a multiplayer mode they don’t care about.
DLC comes in many forms, from the humble cosmetic DLC, that adds a single new skin to a character, up to the major expansion that changes the game considerably. DLC can be campaign expansions, that have no impact on the base game, or they might be deeply integrated with the main campaign of the game. Or they might just give you some cheats, a useless weapon, or unlock a few things that you could unlock during normal gameplay. So it’s hard to say anything too general about DLC, some are great, some are terrible, some really are must-haves, and some will even make your game worse.
The completionist tendencies among some people, the fact that there are those out there who feel the need to own everything, is something that developers are well aware of. Aware of, and take advantage of. While I would probably not go so far as to say that there’s actual malice behind a lot of DLC, having people who are willing to shell out 2€ for the ability to get a pink version of an already existing skin sure does encourage developers to make more skins like that. Heck, there are those out there who will refuse to even start the game, unless they own that pink skin (and the blue one, and the grey one, and the one that has a slightly different shade of pink).
A conversation that sticks out in my mind as when I realized how unhealthy some people’s views on DLC really can be. Humble Bundle were giving out free copies of the game Space Marine, and I recommended it to a friend, as it’s a really good game. They grabbed the free key, and then noticed that the game had DLC. They had no interest in the multiplayer part of the game, in fact, they never play multiplayer, and all the DLC just adds more things for the multiplayer portion of the game. I told them about the DLC, and what it does, but they were adamant that the game was incomplete without the DLC, and then spent 35€ on DLC for a part of the game they had no interest in playing, before they had even started the game. And this is someone who would have squirmed about spending 10€ for the base game.
While this is of course a rather extreme example, it’s does help to illustrate how silly it can be to obsess over owning everything before even starting a game. And the cost of these DLCs really add up. Take Borderlands 2 for an example. There are skin-packs for it, that costs 1€ each. That’s not very expensive, if you buy one or two. But there are 30 of those things. Buying just those skin packs will cost you as much as buying the base game itself these days (or 60% of the launch price of the game). How many of these skins will someone who plays through the game actually use? They’re character specific, so you need to do at least 6 playthroughs of the game to even have a chance of using all of them, and even then, will you actually use those skins during your playthroughs?
Some DLC might have an impact on your playthrough, but simply not be worth the cost. For an example, the Jade Dragon DLC for the grand strategy game Crusader Kings 2 adds China as a power, as well as a few more features. If you’re playing as a nation that’s somewhere in the vicinity of China, then the DLC adds a lot of interesting decisions, but if you’re playing as a European nation, the things the DLC adds are minor at best, and unless you’re the kind of person who will spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours in the game, the DLC is likely not worth it, unless you plan to play as a nation near the eastern edge of the map.
Then there are campaign DLCs, that adds a new campaign that is played entirely separately from the main game. There’s no real point in getting these unless you know you’ll play them, and even then, it’s usually a good idea to wait until you’ve beaten the base game, so you know you’ll actually want to keep on playing. This is particularly true for games that have a lot of campaign DLC. Are you really going to play all of those extra campaigns right away (or ever)?
My point with this little rant was not to say that DLCs are bad, and that you should never buy them, but rather to make you think about what you’re buying, if you need it, and if it’s a good use of your money. If you’re never going to use a DLC, or if the DLC is overpriced for what it does for you, then save your money. It’s very rare for DLC to be necessary for a game to be fun. Even games notorious for their DLC, like those made by Paradox, very rarely need DLCs to be worth playing. And a DLC being released does not suddenly make the game worse (with a few rare exceptions), if the game was “complete” before the DLC was released, it’s not less complete now. And if you started the game, and then buy the DLC, you can almost always start the DLC content with your existing save, so if you’re not absolutely certain that you’ll like the game enough to want the DLC, then start playing, and then decide. It might turn out that you don’t even like the game, or you might feel that the stuff the DLC adds to the game are not worth it, after having played the game for a bit. After all, how much use is a new type of car, if there are already 30 different types in the game already?
So be a smart consumer, don’t let publishers and developers exploit your fear of missing out by buying a lot of DLC that you’ll never even use, and don’t ignore a great game just because it has a lot of DLC. Also, if you’re considering buying a bundle or a collection with a lot of DLCs, take a closer look at what’s actually in it. It might end up being more expensive than it would have been if you just bought those parts that you wanted, because let’s be honest, you’ll most likely not listen to that soundtrack that’s adding 10€ to the “value” of the bundle, nor do you care about the level 2 Sword of Goblin Slaying (“worth” 2€) that you’ll replace as soon as you hit level 3.