Wolfenstein The Old Blood: Have Publishers Finally Figured Out DLC?

Wolfenstein-The-Old-Blood

For some reason my favorite announcement during GDC 2015 has been the new DLC packs for Wolfenstein: the New Order called The Old Blood. The fact that I’m hotly anticipating a piece of DLC as one of my main purchases of May tells me something has changed.

It’s been going on for at least a couple years now, but I think we’re turning a corner in regards to how publishers and developers handle DLC. The annoying stuff is still there, but I’m noticing a lot more valuable DLC these days as well.

Basically, it seems like substantial, story-based DLC is starting to become the main way developers expand upon games with digital content.  Old Blood is the latest in a trend we’ve been seeing with the Dishonored DLC chapters, The Evil Within: The Assignment, the Borderlands 2 DLC, Far Cry 3 Blood DragonAssassin’s Creed IV Freedom CryDeus Ex Human Revolution The Missing Link, and more. These expansions and the reaction to them are a far cry from the days of Horse Armor and retailer-exclusive pre-order bonuses.

Oh that pre-order crap, map packs, and additional trinkets that used to be unlockable in the main game are all still there. It actually might be getting worse with season passes (I’ve already explained before why they make business sense), but from what I can tell a lot of today’s DLC feels more valuable.

For starters most of today’s story-based DLC doesn’t feel like it was lopped off the main game (like Resident Evil 5 Lost in Nightmares). Old Blood is just now getting announced like a year after New Order’s release, so it sort of feels like it’s a separate $20 prequel game. This is literally what Blood Dragon and Ubisoft’s other standalone expansions are.

Actually, I think what’s winning out has essentially been Bethesda’s style of doing DLC and expansions since the beginning of the last console generation. Yeah Oblivion is host to Horse Armor, but around the same time it was also host to full-blown old PC-style expansion packs like Shivering Isles which were a rarity on consoles. This continued with the story-based DLC for the Fallout games, SkyrimDishonored, and now Wolfenstein. The success of Blood Dragon, which actually increased sales of Far Cry 3, convinced Ubisoft that similar kinds of extra content are worthwhile. Now it’s stumbled upon a pretty good way to get out lean content in-between its major releases like Call of Juarez: Gunslinger.

Another thing to look at is the actual amount of content we’re getting with some of these offerings now. The Dishonored DLC is a great example — it contains nearly as much content as the base game for less than half the price. I wouldn’t be surprised if both chapters of Old Blood combined contained a similar amount of content compared to New Order.

Basically, we’re inching closer back to the volume of PC-style expansion packs. Sure we still have pre-order exclusives and generally useless DLC weapons or whatever, but I don’t think they take away from the value of items like Old Blood or Blood Dragon.

A question this leaves for me though is if this will affect the frequency of full-blown sequels. Part of the effect of PC expansions back in the day is they let developers iterate on games without releasing a full $60 sequel two years after the last game. When console publishers started doing DLC that’s not what happened. They just stuck with the regular schedule while repackaging bits of the initial game and calling it additional content. Now we’re seeing actual, substantial additional content added to games. I guess enough time hasn’t passed yet however to gauge what’s happening to the release schedules of full games. You could definitely argue they’re slowing down on PS4 and Xbox One.

Anyway, what stuff like Old Blood is all about is using digital distribution to improve the value and convenience of content. I think overall that’s what’s happening, however slowly and despite some of the crap we still get along the way.

BULLETS:

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