In the last 12 months we’ve seen a significant increase in both the amount and quality of DLC available. It’s now expected that every title is followed shortly after launch with further content. It seems that consumers are happy to pay for further content and publishers can benefit.
Episodic content and brand extension.
DLC is a great way to extend the lifecycle of a product. Carefully planned, it can keep consumers playing long after they would normally have abandoned a title. Also, if they know there is further content in the pipeline they may be less likely to trade it in. For a title that releases a new annual version of the game each year it is important to keep the consumers playing every year as long as possible so that they buy into the brand the next time.
I looked recently at how games could be too long, resulting in users becoming bored before finishing them, and potentially harming sales of future sequels. Episodic DLC is the perfect way to combat this by offering extension to titles and extending the product lifecycle. If publishers could also combine this with the title’s achievements (How achievements could be improved) and offer DLC free for time invested in a game then the brand can be extended much further.
Pre-owned and piracy.
If you visit any game store lately you will find an enormous amount of pre-owned titles. They are not just old games with low value, some are only a few weeks old that players have finished with and traded-in for the next big title. Often the pre-owned will be visible in store alongside full-priced games but with a slight price mark-down. The problem with pre-owned games is that all the revenue for these titles is going directly to the retailer and not back to the publishers and developers. With PDLC however, publishers are able to capture some of this revenue. Publishers are offering access to exclusive DLC with new retail purchases, but if a consumer buys a pre-owned copy then they must purchase the DLC seperately. This has worked to great effect in EA’s recent Mass Effect 2′s Cerberus Network and you can expect this method of DLC delivery for all upcoming EA titles.
In a recent interview, EA’s CEO John Riccitello said, “There’s a sizable pirate market and a sizable second sale market and we want to try to generate revenue in that marketplace.”
As well as capturing revenue from the pre-owned market, this ‘free DLC with new titles’ model allows a publisher to generate revenue from pirates. Users who are pirating games on XBox Live would still have to purchase DLC if they want the content and to be part of the XBL community. That is, of course, if Microsoft doesn’t ban those users and lose revenue for everyone.
As the amount of DLC has increased it is now becoming difficult for consumers to find. Both the PlayStation Network and XBL stores were not developed to navigate the large amount of DLC available. To ensure consumers are aware of the DLC it is key that developers integrate it into the game. The recent EA title Dragon Age integrates the DLC by utilising it as optional elements of the storyline. If you want to undertake some missions in the game it will let you know about DLC that you need to purchase. To summarise, DLC cannot be an afterthought buried in amongst the PSN store; users will never find it. For example, to inform players of the upcoming Assassins Creed 2 DLC, Ubisoft actually had a message on the title screen of the game with the release date of the DLC.
With good UGC it’s possible to offer DLC to players at no development cost. The best example being Little Big Planet which offers thousands of different levels created and uploaded by players. Perhaps in the future we will see an option to monetise UGC, thereby rewarding gamers who develop good content with achievements and credits for the PSN store.
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