If you’re familiar with video games, you must have heard the initials DLC, right? If you haven’t, then the question ringing in your mind right now is – what is a DLC? This is a pretty valuable question, especially to people who have a massive interest in video games.

Simply put, DLC is the short form version of downloadable content. It refers to the extra content that you add on the top of the base of a video game. Today, video games have become so popular that you’ll find them in many households. No wonder video game developers are making a lot of money today through the sale of games and downloadable content.

(If you’re not sure about gamer terminology, I’ve written a handy post about gamer language here)

The History of DLCs

If you thought that digital game distribution is a new thing, you’re very wrong. Everything has a history, right? It’s interesting to know the history of DLCs in relation to video games.

Believe it or not, the history of this important technology goes back to the 1980s. Atari’s GameLine service was an influential figure in this space. However, Total Annihilation is credited as having set the pace for video game DLCs in 1997.

The developers of this game were releasing content monthly. It’s this trend that made the game to become increasingly popular among gaming fans. They were getting new content on a monthly basis, and this was enough to attract the interest of many gamers.

The first DLCs were often released for free but as the gaming market grew onto consoles, these addons soon became monetized.

After this proved successful, other companies pushed their support for DLCs and this saw an unprecedented growth for downloadable content. Microsoft, Sony, and Sega are the companies that facilitated an increase in the growth of DLCs.

They were supporting DLCs for their handheld systems and consoles. Ever since, franchises like Just Dance have capitalized on DLC to make sure that their players are highly engaged. Some of the first games with DLCs included: Total Annihilation, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.

In the early 2000, downloadable content was becoming more popular among gamers and this meant that video games with DLCs grew in recognition. For this reason, developers became more and more interested in creating content that players could download to add the value of an existing game.

As a result of this growth, major video game developers have some form of DLCs. As they make more money, they give gamers an opportunity to lengthen their life of their popular games.

DLCs Vs Expansion Packs

DLCs and expansion packs are not very different from each other. In fact, they have similarities that are worthy of a mention. As you have already noted, DLC refers to any addition to a game that its original producer distributes.

It can also be distributed by third party publishers. You can find it on the internet. Usually, the DLC serves to increase the lifespan of a game so that a gamer can enjoy more.

These include things like characters, levels, or even storylines. They are meant to improve the value of a game. That is why you have to pay more for you to access these additions.

Just like it is for DLCs, expansion packs serve to further a video game. What you expect to find from an expansion pack is new objects, weapons, and an expanded storyline to an already existing game.

The Sims 4

What this means is that for you to play the content of an expansion pack, you must having the base game. Clearly, both DLCs and expansion packs are cut from the same cloth in that they’re valuable to the gaming industry in regards to improving video games and increasing their lifespan.

Notable use of expansion packs is the game The Sims by Electronic Arts. The Sims franchise has capitalized on their vast expansion packs for each new Sims version, adding more and more objects, interactions, holidays and more. This is why the game has become so popular.

In recent memory, EA has even made polls for fans to vote on which expansion pack theme they would like to see released next. I think that including fans and players to decide on where the game should go is pretty great. Better than releasing a DLC or expansion pack nobody wants!

The Problem With DLCs

There are various problems associated with DLCs that gaming fans have continued to experience. If you’re a gamer, then you know that there’re things that you would wish that game developers would take care of.

One of these issues is that DLCs are expensive. As a matter of fact, many people argue that the prices are not fair. The idea of having to pay more for you to continue in a game doesn’t seem fair, right?

To begin with, this is a game that you have already purchased. So, the thought of having to pay more for you to progress in the game doesn’t seem okay for many gamers. Imagine the amount of pressure that parents have to go through in order to continually buy DLCs for their children?

Gaming is such a popular thing that gets people glued to their screens for hours. Having to stop your favorite game because you can’t progress without the latest version is something that gamers don’t like, and this is what developers do in order to get more money from users.

The witty marketing strategies of game developers drive gamers to spend a lot of money as they upgrade their gaming content. The bottom-line here is that as developers make huge amounts of money, gamers are under pressure to download more content.

Personally I think that it’s not fair to include additional plot in DLCs. The entire main plot should be included in the base game. It’s fine to have additional quests that aren’t crucial to the main plot.

If the developers published the main story line across multiple DLCs, then you’re not really paying for a complete base game. Some DLCs also cost the same as the main game!

Some DLCs at the Fanatical Store

DLCs Vs Microtransactions

Technically microtransactions are a type of a DLC. Microtransactions were more widespread in the mobile gaming industry but soon companies realized there is good money to be made.

Most microtransactions are cosmetic by nature, usually in forms of skins for weapons and characters.

More controversial microtranscations can have items that give you an advantage over other players. These are often called pay-to-win items.

The most infamous case for these microtransactions from recent years is Star Wars: Battlefront II, which initially included characters and weapons. After an (justified) uproar from the gamers, the developers were forced to change the system.

Thankfully pay-to-win transactions are not that prevalent in AA or AAA games. Developers test what they can and can’t get away with with players. Usually microtransaction items can be earned within the game without paying for it, it might just take a long time since most in-game currencies take a long time to gather.

As such, there needs to be a balance between these microtransactions and time spent getting these items for free.


DLCs are definitely here to stay whether you like it or not. They have become a new standard along with microtransactions. The gaming industry is growing on a daily basis and the developers try and figure out what kind of DLCs are acceptable to their players.

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