Imagine if you were to buy a pair of jeans from your local clothes store; they look great from the outside and you take them home bursting with excitement to try them out. Oh wait, you realise you have to pay an extra 10% to have the pockets included.
Luckily for us I can't see Downloadable Clothing catching on anytime soon.
This imperfect metaphor for downloadable content doesn't tell the whole story. After all, not all DLC is an attempt to exhort more money from the consumer. There's always a line though.
In theory, DLC is a win-win for all those involved. For the developers, it gives them some extra funding and interest in their product, and for the gamer it can extend the shelf life of your favourite game for just a bit longer, and even recapture some of the excitement you felt when first playing through the campaign. So no problem at all then?
Not quite. Some developers have quickly realised that their fanbase will pay anything to get their hands on new missions and maps, and so deliberately hold back content to make it downloadable in the future.
Ubisoft's Assassins Creed 2 is a good example of this. During the progression of the story, the game suddenly skips two chapters to the point where the devilishly handsome protagonist, Ezio Auditore, looks decidedly older (check out that stubble!) and in the possession of a map that helps him in his quest. This crucial part of the story was hence ignored for the purpose of DLC in the future, and led to quite a bit of confusion on this end of how the narrative had progressed. This was perhaps a tad cynical, but fortunately not something so overtly repeated in the sequels.
In a similar way it emerged that Capcom's Resident Evil 5 DLC for the Versus mode was not all that is seemed. Fans of the series complained that because of the small size of the content, it must have meant that instead of the player downloading it straight from the internet, you were actually paying to unlock a key for content already on the disk. Capcom, however, refutes this claim.
Bioware's Mass Effect 3 went a step further, introducing on-disc, day one DLC for the From Ashes content. Originally meant as a reward for those who purchased the Collector's Edition, it was made available for all on the day of release. An angry fan backlash followed only to be surpassed by those who hated the ending (but let's not get into that).
Much in the same way Capcom did, Bioware and EA were forced to come out and defend their product against disgruntled consumers. It could be argued that Bioware redeemed themselves by making the Extended Cut and multiplayer add-on packs all free. Even more so when you consider the steep prices for Call of Duty's map packs - £10.20/$12.50 for each DLC containing four maps represents a cost of 25% of the original game.
To be clear, this is not an anti-DLC article. I for one love extra content for my favourite games. But the increasing trend of gaming developers holding back content for the purpose of making a few extra pennies in the future is something that needs to be addressed by those developing the games who want to stay hand-in-hand with their fan bases.
The fact is that developers have to make money to continue making the games we love, and the consumer doesn't have to buy the downloadable content in the first place. But that shouldn't matter right? In the case of held back content, surely you buy something expecting that you've bought the full product. Anything less and the costumer feels like they've been swindled. And rightly so - I'm still waiting for my zip to go with those jeans.
Perhaps all of the examples mentioned above can take a lesson from Bethesda, who have reformed their DLC past from the time when they realised pointless horse armour extensions to the present day, with their latest (and massive) downloadable content for Skyrim. This continues their recent trend of releasing DLC that is both value for money and made with their community - instead of just their wallets - in mind.