Two things are true about DLC: it’s one of the best/worst things to have happened to video gaming and while the first is true, people are tired of talking about it and become apathetic toward it which allows the first thing to continue being true. As game after game comes out with DLC practices that become more intrusive on your wallet (see Call of Duty: Black Ops 4), people seem to care less and less about it because that’s “the way it is.” But that is a topic for another time, at least in its broader scale. No, today we’re gonna talk about why this shit is especially annoying in fighting games and how it has been for the longest.
Now, there are a ton of fighting games with DLC, but I’m gonna try to make a timeline with the prominent games. Where better to start than with Street Fighter 4? Now, what made me chuckle a bit as I considered this game was that when this came out, DLC wasn’t as prominent as it is now. So when Super Street Fighter 4 happened, it was a whole new disc and that was one of the last times something like that would happen before we just got update after update. Now, this may have been a start, but I wouldn’t call this bad. The game already had a ton of characters and each update added more to it. It didn’t feel as though the content was cut or anything; it was all obviously developed way after the game launched. Things on that front were fine…until around the time Street Fighter X Tekken happened.
Once SFxT came out, it brought with it two DLC practices that still haunt Capcom to this day: on-disc DLC and “nickle-n-diming” DLC. The latter came with the gems they sold. It seemed every month, they released gems that were far better than what the game provided. Trust me, I used them. But the bigger controversy came from Capcom locking a dozen fully playable characters behind a $20 paywall. It was insane, people were pissed, and I strongly believe it was the biggest thing that sunk the game even after it was updated. And while this is bad, even by today’s standards, this wouldn’t be the last time we saw this kind of crap.
Arc System Works was starting to get kinds shitty with their own way of squeezing money out of it’s customers. See, they took the SF4 approach but didn’t add nearly as much. The BlazBlue series is full of entries, but more than a few of them will be “EXTEND” versions of the games. These were basically balance patches with a character or three to make it feel worth it. They would also be re-released as full games prices at $50 instead of $60. Why is this a problem? You could no longer play online with people who didn’t have EXTEND. So it split the fanbase pretty hard, but no one seemed to talk about it. And even if you forgive that, have you SEEN what they charge for DLC? Taking a quick look at the store, you can see the still $60 game pricing characters at $7.99 and voice packs at $9.99. Guilty Gear Xrd is just as bad on both fronts. Though, they were “kind” enough to release the Rev2 update with Baiken and Answer for a paltry $20. Yay. Then there’s BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle. Well…
The last bit I want to touch on is making DLC out of characters that were mainstays of the franchise. they were in the base roster for the longest time and now they’re DLC. Street Fighter 5, Tekken 7, and now Soulcalibur 6 all come to mind in this regard. Tekken 7 was probably the funniest to me since we all thought they’d never release legacy characters; only to release two of the most requested characters just to sell them as DLC for their new shiny Season Pass. As for Street Fighter 5, while I can accept Alex and Urien, (even Juri) being DLC, how the hell did GUILE become DLC? Guile was one of the original eight characters of Street Fighter 2. But they just thought to cut him? And Balrog? And Akuma? Sakura? Blanka? And of course, “where’s Sagat”?? I would love to hear Capcom explain how the hell this happened. I guess they needed characters to push their season passes. I wouldn’t be surprised if Season 4 had E. Honda in it.
Dead or Alive is another DLC machine, but you could at least argue that it isn’t paywalled characters (barring Mai Shiranui). Instead, they have hundreds of dollars of costumes…which is it’s own brand of unhealthy. Knowing you could spent close a thousand dollars on a costume is…startling.
Ultimately, DLC in fighting games feels especially bad because of it’s roster based nature. This holds especially true if you’re competitive and like to know the matchups against characters or if you’re bothered by not having a complete game or whatever reasons you may have. Of course, you could have ways to combat that like the internet or playing at a friend’s house, but it just isn’t the same. Costumes, colors, and other cosmetics are things that would feel better to pay for but characters, the cornerstone of these games, just feel shitty to have to pay for.
“What, do you expect them for free? Games cost money to make!” Yes. Games cost to buy and if you are constantly selling games at a loss, then your business model sucks. Sell costumes and stuff. That kind of DLC rakes in so much money. SFV could be sustained on Chun Li’s costume lineup alone. On top of that, stop making expensive games if games are too expensive to make. But I’m no developer or anything. Just someone who has opinions. What are yours? Let us know what you think of all this.