Downloadable content is becoming more and more common. Almost all games these days have downloadable content. While some of it is released as free downloads, most of it is paid for. This means we can use a similar Price vs. Length discussion for DLC. I hold DLC up to the same scrutiny as a full game. You should get as much hours of gameplay as you pay in dollars. A $10 DLC should give 10 hours of gameplay. A few examples:
Oblivion Knights of the Nine – This was the biggest DLC released for Oblivion. (I consider Shivering Isles an expansion pack.) It cost $10 but the length depends quite a bit on the player. Without doing any fast travel, it would probably take 10 hours to finish all the quests. With fast travel it could probably be finished in just a couple hours. An average of 5 hours is pretty good for our purposes though. Since 5 hours does not pass the test, I would not consider this DLC worth it. Some players will get their money’s worth; most will not.
Call of Duty Black Ops First Strike – This was the first DLC for Black Ops. It was priced at $15 and included 5 multiplayer maps. Four of the maps were for normal competitive multiplayer and the fifth map was a special Zombie survival mode. That is $3 per map, so each map would need about 3 hours of play time.
Much like Knights of the Nine, the value of this DLC depends on the player. If you were the the kind of player that played Black Ops every night after work, you would probably eventually get 3 hours out of each map. If you were more of a casual player just jumping in a few multiplayer matches every once in a while, you would need many weeks to get your money’s worth. The bad thing is that the new maps are usually the most played (the old maps can be abandoned), so casual players sometimes have to buy them just to play their occasional multiplayer.
Civilization 5 Denmark/The Vikings – This is one of the civilizations you can pay to add to your game. It is $5 and includes the civilization for use in normal games (single and multiplayer) as well as a scenario. Scenarios are basically scripted maps. You get to play as the title civilization with special objectives. The scenario for the Denmark DLC is one of the better ones as you can play as 3 different civilizations.
The scenario itself probably gives you about 3 hours if you try all three factions. You do get to play as Denmark in normal games, but it doesn’t change the gameplay enough to really add that up towards the 5 hours we are testing for. I would say it’s not really worth $5 unless you absolutely love Denmark and plan to play lots and lots of games with that civilization. The average player will not get their money’s worth.
The conclusion is that DLC is almost never worth the full price. On sale or in bundles it can definitely be worth it, and that requires some patience not to buy when everyone is hyping it up. I usually wait to buy DLC on sale or not at all. Some of the DLC prices rival the cost of an indie game.
If I have a choice between buying a DLC or buying a full indie game, I almost always will choose the indie game. For the same cost you can get fresh and new gameplay or the same old gameplay just with a few tweaks. It’s a no-brainer to me.
I can see sometimes you have that one game you love to play and DLC is the answer to your craving of more content, but it is rare that a game holds me so much I am desperate for content and willing to overpay for it. Wait for a sale or buy an indie game. Your money will go a lot further.
Optimal Game Price vs Length is a three part series in which I explain how I compare a game’s cost with its length. In the last article, I wrote how to do this with a full game purchase ($50 or $60 for mainstream games). In the next part, I explain how I do this with free to play games.