Why You Should Be Outraged Over This New Gaming Trend

Gaming as a medium is constantly evolving. We've moved from physical to digital, demos to betas, and expansion packs to DLC. The various modes of gaming we engage in often exist side-by-side, but there are some insidious practices that are threatening to overtake traditional means of game content distribution. I may sound scarily conservative when I say it that way, but hear me out.

I've written numerous editorials about the complexities surrounding the creation and release of DLC. I don't find it to be an inherently negative part of modern gaming, as it has the capacity to either help or hinder our gaming experiences depending on the circumstances surrounding its production. I'm okay with things like additional characters and modes that are added to games well after development on the final product has already wrapped up, particularly if those additions are made in response to fan feedback. When I say "final product," that's exactly what I mean - DLC should be a means of augmenting a complete experience, not filling in the gaps left by releasing a game before it's ready.


What I find absolutely abhorrent is the now-normalized practice of adding to a game's story after it has been released. One need look no further than the kerfuffle surrounding the ending of Mass Effect 3. Its ending left players furious, delivering a last-moment twist that could potentially invalidate everything you had done in the hundred-plus hours spent playing the entire trilogy. BioWare's response was to rework the ending into an "Extended Cut" that was later released as DLC. It was free, which limits my ability to object to its existence, but there's something off-putting about knowing that the original ending was released in a state incomplete enough to warrant expansion well after release.

Several years later, we're facing a nearly-identical situation with Final Fantasy XV. (In the interest of remaining spoiler-free, I'll keep my comments about the game's story vague.) The game's latter half takes a sharp turn away from its open-world setting, becoming a linear experience with an increased focus on resolving Noctis' tale. Yet it's abundantly clear that this portion of the game is rushed, with several plot threads never reaching a satisfactory conclusion and at least two important characters dying pitiable off-screen deaths.


In response to fan reaction, Square Enix has announced that they'll be releasing a bevy of updates to the game over the coming year, one of which will include new cutscenes that will "give new insight into character motivations, such as why [SPOILER] walked the path he did." This will be a free update, but the previously-announced DLC episodes featuring each of Noctis' buds - Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto - will not. This is a problem because there are glaringly obvious points in Final Fantasy XV's story where each character needs further development, and these plot points have quite transparently been reserved for paid DLC. Hell, there's even a moment where Gladio disappears for a bit, and when Noctis asks what he's been up to upon his return, he says "That's a story for another time." A story to be told after we hop over a paywall, you mean.

Cutting essential story out of a game - or leaving it out altogether with the hope that players won't notice - only to patch it in later is an abominable practice that I cannot support. It's even more offensive when narrative resolution is offered via paid DLC. Just because developers have the technology to deliver updates after a game has launched, that doesn't give them a free pass to skimp on the details until they're called out for it. Games need to ship with a clear narrative vision instead of limping along until developers apply their figurative bandaids months down the line.

Derek Heemsbergen
Derek Heemsbergen

Contributing Writer
Date: 12/12/2016

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