Who here likes Day-1 DLC? Raise those hands. I want to see some hands! No hands? Well, BioWare thinks opposite of you core gamers. According to sales data day-1 DLC is the next hotness in game development and BioWare, at a developers conference in Europe, encouraged other like-minded individuals to embrace the profits of day-1 DLC because obviously gamers like it.
GamaSutra reports on the conference speech from BioWare's director of online development, Fernando Melo, who said the following in regards to day-1 DLC...
“...players want more content, and they want it now -- the problem is that there is no single 'now', so it should be there when they're ready for it."
Oh boy. Melo goes on to use Dragon Age: Origins as an example for successful day-1 DLC attachment rates, stating that 53% of all the sales for the DLC was when it was released day-1 alongside the game. In other words, gamers couldn't wait to buy the DLC and bought it with the game as opposed to buying it later, even though technically 47% still bought it later.
Melo tries to push the point that if you don't provide day-1 DLC players may lose retention after conquering the game and move on to something else...you know, like a normal human being.
Now here's where I attempt to destroy the argument by asking: Why is it a bad thing that gamers move on to something else after conquering the game?
The reality is that day-1 DLC isn't going to stop players from trading in their game after they beat it. Why wouldn't they? After you beat a game you shelve it and maybe return to it when you feel like it...if it's good.
Day-1 DLC is basically just to turn a $60 game into a $70 purchase, or to milk a gamer (who is oftentimes a completionist and wants the whole experience). Someone who decides to stop playing a game after a week or a month shouldn't matter to a developer, especially if they already have revenue from an initial sale.
Also, look at games like GTA IV, Just Cause 2, Dark Souls or Team Fortress 2, a lot of these games are still being played today because of mods, difficulty or replayability, which offer new ways to interact with the game. I think the bustling mod scene for Half-Life 2, a game that's eight years old is proof you don't need day-1 DLC to maintain retention rates. If a developer really wants to keep gamers playing, how about offering more mod support or expanded replayability for the core game?
In plain terms, Fernando Melo's argument for using resources to develop day-1 DLC is bull crap. It's a lie.
One comment that also stands out as being potentially detrimental to the design environment, is as follows...
"Everything you do post-ship is totally independent on the success of your game," ... "and DLC tends to sustain sales over time even better than your main game."
That's another lie. While a game is off for certification, which usually takes an average of three weeks (unless it's a really long game and then it might take longer) the team should not be working on DLC...they should be working on ensuring the game is properly patched and ready for play to avoid early launch woes that usually plague big releases (I'm looking at the save-file corruptor for Borderlands and just about every Bethesda game).
It amazes me how some games launch and still have game-breaking bugs, such as Mass Effect 3's black-screen of death. How could anyone say it was justified to be working on day-1 DLC when the game had a play-halting bug? I'm sorry but bugs, glitches and broken gameplay should come first before DLC and most big games released these days all seem to have their fair share of the former.
More than anything, Melo should be talking about providing the best possible gameplay experience right out of the gate. Instead of trying to aim to nickel and dime, developers should be looking at long-time success stories like GTA: San Andreas which has more than 14 million copies sold or Red Dead Redemption which had 8.5 million copies sold just a year after release. In no roundabout way, a quality product will sell and keep selling, a crappy product needs day-1 DLC to makeup for lacking sales.
Unfortunately numbers speak, and as Peter Moore gloated about Mass Effect 3's day-1 DLC, and Melo is gloating about Dragon Age: Origin's DLC, I can imagine the corporate landscape of gaming will be riddled with lots more day-1 DLC in the future.