Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
of paid downloadable content (PDLC), but there is usually no good design
reason that the content must be downloaded separately. This is typically an
artifact of old-school technical limitations on size (which can bloat download
times). Often, however, development teams will build additional content for
their games after the initial product has launched, thus offering the player an
additional reason to “stick with” the game. PDLC can be a great incentive for
users to spend a bit more time with your game and, consequently, to give you
a few more of their dollars. But remember that PDLC can also have a down-
side. Some game developers have experienced backlash from angry custom-
ers who paid extra for content they felt should have been included as part
of their initial purchase. If you charge an initial entry fee into your game, be
sure that your PDLC offers something additional, extra, and fun, but nothing
that dramatically affects the core game—you wouldn't want your users to feel
In a world where initial content is often offered for free, however, the pos-
sibilities for PDLC expand substantially. We recommend contextualizing the
locked content within the game fiction in a way that makes the game experi-
ence more immersive; also, avoid inflaming your customer's ire by blatantly
reminding them that you are shaking them down for extra money. For exam-
ple, a fictional gatekeeper character who demands a tribute of in-game cur-
rency before allowing the user's character to pass into the new area can help
situate the act of paying for content inside the framework of the game, as
opposed to feeling like an intrusive external force sticking its hand into the
user's wallet.
Several games have found a great deal of success with PDLC in recent
years, particularly on the console. Rock Band proved to the world that (at
least for a year or so) groups of friends would get together every weekend
and pay $3 per song to download new music and “rock out” to with their
friends. Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers sold booster packs
of digital Magic cards for nearly same price they charged for tangible cards in
The mobile market has also found success in this trend. Dozens of mobile
publishers have offered additional paid content for their games, enticing users
repeatedly to buy just a little more of what they need to expand their game
experience. An advantage of building and releasing downloadable content
for your game is that it keeps the game fresh in your users' minds. The news
and PR stories associated with the announcement and release of new content
reminds lapsed users of the game, and attracts the attention of those who may
have missed the game on its initial release. Perhaps more importantly, for any
of the distributions with a “Top Downloads” or “Most Popular”-type sorting
mechanic, from the Apple iTunes App Store to XBLA, the new downloads from
users who want the PDLC can resurrect an older title from the graveyard and
bring it back to the top of the charts. Frontline game sales almost always spike
when a PDLC is released.
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