It’s finally taken hold, hasn’t it? This notion of video games as a service. It was only a few years ago that many of us were mocking the idea. “Treating games as a service? Like that would ever happen!” we scoffed. “Nobody will support that” we jeered. Yet, here we are. After years of getting used to DLC add-ons and eventually always online games like Destiny, what was once looked upon with trepidation has become just another part of the gaming landscape. In fact, DLC and its ilk have become so embedded in our modern gaming experience that it’s actually disappointing when a major game doesn’t have it. Truly, one needs only to look at the Mass Effect series in order to see how much our perception of DLC has changed over these past few years.
Late last week, EA announced that single-player support for Mass Effect: Andromeda would conclude with the 1.10 update. Whatever DLC had been planned would be scrapped and the game would forever remain more or less in its “base” state. Some received the news with an attitude of “good riddance”, but many others expressed feelings of genuine disappointment and even anger. No matter how good or bad the game actually was, DLC had been expected as a part of the Andromeda experience. It’s not a new attitude, but it’s still a far cry from the role DLC used to play in the series.
With the possible exception of the “Extended Cut” addition for Mass Effect 3, DLC wasn’t a demand or expectation for the original trilogy. Each game’s “base” state was seen as the complete game. The likes of Lair of the Shadow Broker, Bring Down the Sky, and Citadel may be considered essential to the overall experience now, but that’s a stance born from hindsight. We never actually asked for any of them at the time. Those add-ons were simply bonuses; unexpected but welcome opportunities to spend more time with Shepard and crew as they undertook smaller, more self-contained, adventures. Perhaps some players were simply hoping to do the same with Ryder, but therein lies the difference. As big as Andromeda was, and it certainly was big if nothing else, many of us went into and left it already expecting more to be added.
I’ve been talking about this in terms of Mass Effect, but this is gaming now. Did you notice that I’ve been using the term “base” to describe the initial content of each game? It’s no accident, because I’m no exception to this new way of perceiving games. After years of DLC, post-release patches and playing the likes of Destiny, I too have come to see the launch versions of games as the starting point rather than the full and finished product. I expect to see post-release content. I expect to see updates and additions. I fully expect to be offered more game even if I’m perfectly happy with the game I got. Perhaps this isn’t the case for every gamer out there, but for myself and many others most games truly have transformed from singular products into ongoing services. And I’m not so sure that that’s a good thing.
What’s your take on the current state of DLC and the idea of games as a service? Is gaming better off this way or would it benefit from somehow turning back?
Lede image captured by Hatmonster