Downloadable content or “DLC” has become a problematic reality of playing modern video games that can vary wildly from title-to-title. For every game like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which has not only given away numerous bits of free content to players but promises to only charge money for substantial expansions, there are titles like Batman: Arkham Knight that want you to spend almost the price of the game itself on future content sight unseen. The digital games marketplace has begun to resemble the Wild West, where publishers try and see how badly they can swindle their customer base before the bubble bursts. These 10 games represent some of the shoddiest DLC practices of the last few years. Unfortunately, they sure won’t be the last.
10. Dead Rising 3
At first glance, Dead Rising 3‘s DLC strategy seems pretty average, offering a modestly-priced season pass of $30 for four separate add-ons. But when the game received a massive title update in January 2014, it was apparent that Capcom, the game’s publisher, was effectively punishing those who chose not to purchase the game’s DLC. The massive 13 gigabyte patch, in addition to containing general bug and glitch fixes, also contained the add-ons, which meant that everyone would technically have the content on their hard drives, even if they couldn’t access it. Many players were rightfully indignant that they were being forced to sacrifice valuable bandwidth and hard drive space for content they might not want, as the patch was mandatory. Considering that hard drive space and bandwidth caps are increasingly at a premium thanks to the high file sizes of next gen games, Capcom’s DLC strategy feels inconsiderate at best.
9. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Bioware’s Dragon Age: Inquisition was one of the best games released in 2014 and is such a massive game that the prospect of additional content feels like overkill. Still, it’s hard to say no to more of a great game; unfortunately, Inquisition publisher EA ruffled some feathers with their unexpected exclusivity deal with Microsoft and the Xbox One, effectively leaving players on other platforms in the dark as to when they could expect to receive the same content. To Bioware’s credit, they responded to the controversy in short order, announcing a week later that the Jaws of Hakkon expansion would be available to PS4 and PS3 owners in May 2015, but it’s easy to see why many fans were upset in being treated like second-class citizens due to not playing the game on the “right” platform.
Titanfall, one of the biggest multiplayer shooters of last year, took a similar approach to its DLC strategy as the Call of Duty series, which was fitting considering the game was developed by Respawn Entertainment, a company founded by ex-Call of Duty developers. The game’s season pass offered three separate multiplayer map packs for $24.99, a savings of $5 as the packs sold individually for $10 a pop. Although this pricing was a bit steep, it was in line with the pricing structures of the Call of Duty games, so no one batted an eye. When the game celebrated its one-year anniversary back in March, the season pass was made free so that everyone could play the new maps together. Although this was a great move for new players or anyone who hadn’t bought the season pass to begin with, it made Titanfall‘s most loyal fans — the ones who shelled out money for additional content in the first place — feel betrayed and ripped off.
7. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
One of the biggest surprises of last year was Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, a Lord of the Rings game that was better than anyone could have expected. Since the base game was so good, it was assumed that the game’s additional content would be strong as well, which made the game’s $24.99 season pass look like a worthy investment. Unfortunately, Shadow of Mordor‘s DLC was largely a disappointment. In addition to exclusive in-game power-ups and items, the game released two story-based expansions, “The Lord of the Hunt” and “The Bright Lord”. Other than a few neat gameplay twists, these two releases failed to offer much in the way of compelling content and felt like unnecessary additions. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a prime example of why you should never purchase a season pass before a game’s DLC is released, as even the best games don’t always offer great additional content.
6. Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 was something of an experiment for Capcom in releasing one of their most popular franchises episodically. While in retrospect dividing Revelations 2 into four episodes was a largely pointless strategy, as it didn’t enhance the experience in anyway, it didn’t really hurt the game either, so it will probably be remembered as a curiosity more than anything. Unfortunately, Capcom also saw fit to turn the game’s Raid mode into a platform for microtransactions, which feels a bit disingenuous when players already have to pay for the base game. This strategy makes sense in free-to-play games, but Revelations 2 is definitely not free in any way.
5. Assassin’s Creed Unity
Microtransactions are a particularly fiendish form of downloadable content that take the form of low-priced purchases that can quickly add up. The main problem is that many games have started to use microtransactions to offer shortcuts to impatient players, such as instant in-game currency to help you progress through the game faster. Assassin’s Creed Unity is notorious at this point for being nigh-unplayable when it launched, but publisher Ubisoft also had a field day in finding various avenues to shakedown players for more money. The game offered various in-game currency packs, with the biggest costing an astounding $100, which was $40 more than the price of the actual game. Game development is expensive and it’s understandable that publishers have to find a way to make more money, but Assassin’s Creed Unity is a telling example of how anti-consumer practices are starting to be the front and center strategy for DLC in games.
Among the laundry list of complaints that Destiny received post-launch last year was that the base game didn’t come with enough content. As a result, there was a lot of anticipation for the game’s expansions, “The Dark Below” and “House of Wolves”, released in December and May, respectively. Considering that both of these expansions were priced at a hefty $20 (or $35 for both, if you bought the expansion pass), it was expected that these would be significant additions to Destiny. While House of Wolves made significant strides in offering better value for the price, The Dark Below was heavily criticized for offering a meager amount of content that also made the game worse for a few months. The expansion revamped the game’s currency system, neutering old high level gear and generally making the game even more of a grind than it already was. House of Wolves fixed a lot of these issues, but it’s understandable why many are skeptical of the upcoming big expansion “The Taken King”, due out in September for a whopping $40.
3. Mortal Kombat X
Mortal Kombat X, the latest entry in the classic hyper-violent fighting series, may have received great reviews, but the same can’t be said for its questionable approach to DLC. In addition to the controversy surrounding the character Goro only being available to players who pre-ordered the game (or for a $5 charge), publisher Warner Bros. then had the audacity to ask players to spend $30 for the “Kombat Pack”, which comes with only four new characters and character skins. As if asking for half the game’s price for just a few new characters wasn’t enough, the game also has numerous microtransactions that feel entirely exploitative, especially charging for “Easy Fatalities” that can only be used a finite amount of times. This kind of feature used to be called cheat codes and didn’t require gamers to open their wallets at every turn.
2. Batman: Arkham Knight
Batman: Arkham Knight is one of the best games of 2015 and brings developer Rocksteady’s Batman trilogy to a satisfying close. Unfortunately, for as good as the game is, it’s yet another casualty of publisher Warner Bros’. greed-happy DLC strategies, as the game has a season pass with a ridiculous price tag of $40. The main problem with this is that asking players to pay almost as much as they did for the base game for new content is absurd. It’s made even worse by the fact that there’s no way of telling how good or valuable the content included in the season pass will be. So far, only the Batgirl-themed story expansion “A Matter of Family” has been revealed and even then, it’s unclear how extensive or worthwhile an experience it will be. Perhaps if Warner Bros. had provided more detail about what players can expect from their investment, Arkham Knight‘s season pass would be an easier sell. As it stands, it’s simply another example of publishers asking for money for a poorly-defined product.
Evolve, the spiritual successor to the beloved Left 4 Dead series (both were made by the same developer, Turtle Rock Studios) was initially a highly-anticipated game that won numerous “Best of E3” awards at the annual trade show last year. Unfortunately, the game’s actual merits were quickly lost sight of in the lead-up to the game’s February release, as it became evident that publisher 2K Games was planning to release an unfinished game that would require numerous additional expenditures to make it whole. To truly make the game “complete”, players had to spend an absurd $131, over twice the game’s retail price. In addition, Evolve suffered from a glut of retailer-exclusive pre-order bonuses, ensuring that no matter where you bought the game, you would be missing out on something. Evolve left such a sour taste in consumers’ mouths that it’s no wonder the game has been all but forgotten about less than five months after its release.