You may remember earlier this year, Ubisoft released a statement claiming that they had already finished the DLC (Downloadable Content) for their newest IP, ‘Watch Dogs’, and they were now working on the finishing touches of the actual game. For the vast majority of those who heard it, it made people unhappy. As if having the year’s most anticipated game delayed wasn’t bad enough, they were then informed that Ubi had put development of the game’s DLC before the development of the game itself. Was I among this angered crowd? The short answer is yes, I was. Why? Well, I was one of the millions whose eye had been caught by Watch Dogs at E3 2012. Enough so for me to pre-order it, in fact. Therefore, I was obviously disappointed when it was announced that that very game had been delayed for approximately five months. However, once I had gotten over the initial shock of the sudden and unexpectedly lengthy delay, I became even more optimistic for the final product. I thought that I’d play a better game in March than I would have in November. Then along came the graphical downgrade, which also downgraded people’s excitement for the game. And finally, to top it all off, Ubisoft released the aforementioned statement.
Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying, “All DLC is bad and it shouldn’t exist.” Far from it. However, I am saying that DLC should not take priority over the completion of the game itself. To me, game developing should be like game playing. When you buy a game, do you complete the game first, or its DLC? The game, of course! Therefore, game developers should produce the game first, before even dreaming of starting on the DLC. And it’s not like we have to look far back to see proof of this method being successful. Look at ‘The Last Of Us’: the original game was released in June, 2013. Its award-winning DLC, ‘Left Behind’, was released in February earlier this year and received critical acclaim worldwide, with many feeling that it bested the actual game in certain areas. ‘Left Behind’ is currently considered by many (me included) to be the best piece of single DLC ever released for a game… and yet it was released under 8 months after the game. This allowed the developers, Naughty Dog, to immediately set to work on the DLC as soon as The Last Of Us was finished. This in turn meant that the DLC was the best it could be and it really shows, with Left Behind picking up a score of 88% on Metacritic.
Left Behind’s success was also aided by the fact that it wasn’t part of a routine and because of that, it wasn’t developed and tested under any obvious and overbearing time pressure. By this, I mean that Naughty Dog weren’t rushed. Of course, they had release it at some point, but that point was unspecified and it was not expected. This is the opposite, for example, to Call of Duty’s DLC release schedule. For every ‘Call of Duty’ game since the beginning of time (close enough), each title has had four, additional map packs/DLCs to accompany it between the release of that Call of Duty and the next one. Therefore, there are relatively tight time schedules to keep to when developing DLC. This can (and has in the past) led to unpolished DLC being released, which has then had to be rectified with “update” patches. Surely Activision must have figured out by now that the better a piece of DLC is, the more people will be enthusiastic to play it and, therefore, buy it. That means not releasing a specified and set amount of DLC per game, and instead release as much quality DLC as you can. All we can do is hope that Sledgehammer Games bucks this trend with the help of Activision for Advanced Warfare. In doing so, they will set the bar high for DLC quality as Call of Duty goes next-gen (Ghosts doesn’t count). We know they won’t, of course. Why? I believe it’s known as money.
The evidence above clearly shows that focusing on the game first, and then the DLC separately will make for a better experience. Not only in the game, but in its DLC as well. It’s down to you, Activision…