Downloadable Content (DLC) has caused much controversy in recent years. Games used to be developed until released in which case the developers would work on patching the game and releasing a £20 expansion pack 6 to 12 months after release. Nowadays, DLC is released a very short time after the game has released and there has been evidence of pre-planning the DLC before the release.
Bioshock 2 triggered the debate about DLC when upon releasing it’s ‘Sinclair Solutions Test Pack’ just a month after the game launched. Players discovered that the $5 DLC was already on the disc at launch and that users were having to pay for a small file that unlocked the folder. The developers of Bioshock 2 ‘2K Games’ later confirmed that this was indeed true saying “that this was so that all players would have the same files on the disc and so that the DLC would not split the player base”. Needless to say, many fans were annoyed and outraged that it was pre-planned to such an extent.
The newly-released ‘Orcs Must Die!’ already has a paid DLC the ‘Artifact’s of Power’ which offers 2 new weapons and 2 new traps. Although it has been released just a week after launch, many fans of the game are happy to support it because of the pricing (Just £1.59) and also because several fans of the game specifically asked for DLC to be released. I asked the developers of 'Orcs Must Die!' Robot Entertainment when they started working on the DLC and why they decided to release it so soon.
“The development on our DLC began after the initial game was completed. As anyone familiar with game development knows, games are often completed (or mostly completed) well before their release date. There is a certain amount of time between content or code complete and the actual release where bug fixing and platform approvals are occurring. Once OMD! was in that phase, a small handful of developers began to push around ideas of how we could add a little bit more to the game. That's when the work on these items began.”
“Many people who've purchased and played Orcs Must Die! have asked on the forums for more traps and maps. We're really happy to have a very flexible development team that can adapt quickly to allow us to release fun additions to Orcs Must Die! relatively close to the release. In this case, we wanted to give players who enjoy trap variety the chance to mix up their toolbox with deadly results.”
I’m sure it will become more and more common in the future to see these releases although the question still remains as to whether it should be either included before release or as a free update later. With only large companies like Valve releasing free DLC it does look like the paid DLC ethos will become the norm rather than the exception.