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Be aware: On-Disc DLC has evolved and it's more insidious than ever

Jonathan Lester
Dead Rising 3, Destiny, DLC, On-Disc DLC

Be aware: On-Disc DLC has evolved and it's more insidious than ever

When it comes to industry practices we despise, "On-Disc DLC" is right up there. Ever since Capcom came under fire for including content on retail discs, locking it off and then selling it back to us, gamers became aware of what was essentially a scam and dredged up the whole sorry mess, and quite right too.

So you'd expect that publishers and developers would do their best to stay well clear of this nasty business, but you'd be wrong. On-disc DLC has just evolved into a new form over the last few years, and is more insidious than ever.

Though technically, we now ought to refer to it as 'on-disk DLC.'

Be aware: On-Disc DLC has evolved and it's more insidious than ever

For years, it has been common practice to prepare games for upcoming expansions with patches and updates, including a little data, modifying a few files and tweaking a few things to make the transition easier. There's nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

However, we're now in a situation where publishers are smuggling entire DLC packs and expansions onto our hard drives within massive title updates that we're forced to install to play our games online, then charging us to unlock content that's already on our consoles!

Destiny is the most recent offender. The Dark Below expansion weighs in at between 8-75MB depending on your console, meaning that the content must already be on our hard drives or, as many suspect, on the disc itself. Seeing as Destiny has received a number of enormous patches recently despite making fairly minor tweaks to the code, this expansion presumably must have been delivered ahead of time.

Be aware: On-Disc DLC has evolved and it's more insidious than ever

Capcom are also up to their old tricks. Dead Rising 3 is a fantastic example of this phenomenon in action, since it received some utterly monstrous updates before each content pack to improve stability, yet the Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha expansion weighed in at only a few megabytes. Seriously, we had to install 4GB to our hard drives the day before the Arcade Remix released. We know it's in there. It's obviously in there.

It's easy to point fingers, but why is this actually a bad thing? The content is being developed post-launch, after all, while downloading it in this manner improves stability and convenience -- well, for those who actually want it, since everyone else has to pull down ridiculous downloads just to play their game online again.

Partly it's the principle of the thing. We objected to paying for content that was already on the disc, so how is this any different? Publishers have forced us to download their DLC, it's already there on our consoles, yet we have to pay to access it. This can't be right.

Be aware: On-Disc DLC has evolved and it's more insidious than ever

But more importantly, hard drive space is now a precious commodity. As I bemoaned in a recent article, we have to install every single game we own, and 500GB can disappear in a blink of an eye when big games clock in at between 20-50GB apiece. And yet, instead of trying to streamine their games, respecting our hard drive space, time and convenience, and ensuring that we can keep as many games installed as possible, publishers and developers are forcing us to use up even more space on content we might not even want.

The alternative, of course, being to delete games then reinstall them down the line, or spend even more money on an external hard drive. Great. Yet another expense in an already expensive generation, just so we can download things we might not even want to buy.

On-disk DLC looks like it's here to stay, but that doesn't mean we have to like it. Does this bother you? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Have your say in the comments!

Add a comment4 comments
Late  Dec. 11, 2014 at 12:43

Was wondering about the amount of crap we install unnecessarily with the mild furore over Tekken's cat-girl character earlier this week - when the developers said the character will only be in the game in some regions, but not in others.

Which has me wondering just how many characters are actually included in the game, but completely unavailable to us because of our region?

I'm assuming we're all installing the same game, with the same characters included - but availability of those characters being dependent on geographical location or console settings - but like I say, that's an assumption. Perhaps different countries actually get different data on their disks and in their downloads.

But it seems more likely to me that we're installing locked content - and we've progressed from it being locked unless we pay a bit extra, to it being locked and there not even being an option to unlock it. (Well, until they later announce that a character that was previously only available in different regions is now being released in our region. At a premium, of course.)
Go on - use up a bit more of my hard drive why don't you. Fill yer boots - it's limitless :\

That said, I'm not really struggling for HDD space yet - one year into my xbox One, despite having a reasonable sized games collection. I think I've used about 55% so far. And I probably won't mind it if, two years into the console's life, I end up having to delete a game I've not played in well over a year, to make a bit of space. (And of course it's not like I'm deleting it forever - it can be freely reinstalled if I want it back again later, for whatever reason - not that I often go back to a game after a couple of years.)

Last edited by Late, Dec. 11, 2014 at 12:44
JonLester  Dec. 11, 2014 at 13:49

Yeah, the amount we have to patch, update and install is crazy considering that consoles are supposed to be the most convenient way of playing games. Devs and publishers should be doing their best to keep install sizes and hard drive allocations down, but they're doing the exact opposite.

Glad to hear you're not running out of space, though, I suppose I consume more games than most in my line of work!

RE the Tekken Thing: Heh, that was an odd little snafu. If Harada does make good on his threat I reckon that it would probably be on-disc DLC. Personally, though, I don't know why so many devs seek out unsolicited feedback during development anyway - can you imagine Miyamoto trawling NeoGAF to see if people don't like his games?

Hideki Kamiya does it right ( https://twitter.com/PG_kamiya/status/542858262001897472 ). Interact with fans, but suffer no fools and keep developing games the way he wants to. After all, we often don't really know what we want until we get it.

Last edited by JonLester, Dec. 11, 2014 at 13:53
Late  Dec. 11, 2014 at 15:44

Some take it too far, of course.
Somehow Gabe appears to have inadvertently blocked everyone who wants Half Life 3.

RuFfEndZ  Dec. 11, 2014 at 16:00

For me the problem is not so much with hard drive space but with bandwidth to fill it.
i live outside of a village in the south east, which means that at best i can get around 3mb download bandwidth.
discovering that i have to update a game every other time i play it kills my ability to enjoy that game in my precious gaming time so i have to move on, quite often never to come back.

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