In Part One of this editorial, we looked at the strengths and weaknesses of disc based content delivery in music games. To summarize that discussion, disc based games are portable and keep resale value, while swapping discs and flooding the market are problematic. Let's consider the pros and cons of DLC, followed by some final thoughts on the matter.
Why Downloadable Content Is Good:
Backwards compatibility: Probably the greatest advantage to DLC. Harmonix was the first to implement backwards compatibility, allowing all Rock Band content to work in Rock Band 2. Not only was the DLC compatible, but you can even export all the songs on the RB1 disc to your hard drive, and play them in RB2! This is fantastic, and we'll have more to say about it later.
Longevity: DLC keeps you going back to a game, far longer than you would otherwise. When one of your favorite songs is available to download, you'll dust the game off and check it out. Of course, if you already have the gear out, you might as well play a few old favorites, too. For our family, this happens every month or so, and it's just as much fine every time.
Something for everyone: DLC allows for music that is more experimental, or very different from typical music game fare. There's a lot of variety in the DLC for Rock Band, for instance. From Country and Disney Channel stars to Spongebob and The Monkees, DLC allows publishers to take a chance on music that they might not be willing to make full disc based games out of. With hundreds of songs available, anyone can find something they'll enjoy.
Impulse buys: $2 is a minor amount of money, even in a bad economy. For less than the cost of a gallon of gas, you can add a song to your gaming library. It's almost a nobrainer, and it's tough to control yourself when the price is so low. Contrast this to a full $60 disc, which is an amount that will make you think twice about whether you "need" it or not.
No breaks in the fun: Being able to queue up a massive list of songs keeps the good times flowing. Having all of your content available in one game engine means there's less time spent restarting, signing in, connecting controllers, etc.
Paying for content only: Let's face it, very little has changed since the first 4 player music game came out. Minor gameplay tweaks aside, we're basically playing the same game that we have been for quite a while. Buying DLC feels like a valid extension of the game, adding content only, whereas disc based content gives you the impression that you are paying a premium for what is, in essence, the same game you already have.