Cognition Dissemination: The Future of Nintendo DLC

Nintendo has a reputation for being behind the times regarding video gaming industry trends, which has been good and bad. It was fine when they weren’t providing the same kind of price-gouging DLC that some other publishers were, nothing on par with others who charge for even extra colors. But this was bad when the online systems for their platforms were so threadbare in terms of features that they didn’t include functionalities that had become standard, like the option to patch games. They realized the latter case was a serious issue when publishers had to recall games instead of patching them like on other platforms, which occurred with Tales of Graces, or players just had to deal with the issues.

With more modern systems like Wii U, 3DS, and the recent Nintendo Switch, they now have platforms with most of the expected online capabilities. Nintendo will never let go of Friend Codes to register friends/acquaintances on your Friends List, but they’re modernized enough. They also started releasing DLC on the former two systems, along with Season Passes for games that received a significant amount of post-release content. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed it, because we’ll be getting a lot more.

From The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Champions’ Ballad DLC.

Nintendo Ltd. CEO Tatsumi Kimishima confirmed during the company’s newest financial briefing that though more of their games are receiving DLC over time, they plan to further increase the pace. (Check page 7.) The aim for this is to “promote longer gameplay for individual software titles,” corporate talk meaning they want players to stick with their games for a longer time. Competing publishers promote their DLC in a similar manner these days. Just like when other publishers voiced similar aspirations, several fans who started panicking about whether Nintendo would embrace the same kinds of maligned practices.

But upon looking at what Nintendo is currently doing, and what they’re planning for their current software, I see no reason for concern… yet. While games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 had DLC and Season Passes f, they came with much more content compared to DLC from many other publishers.

BotW received two significant DLC packs through its Expansion Pass, called “The Master Trials” and “The Champions’ Ballad.” The first one included gameplay-focused content including challenge modes, a harder difficulty, and new outfits, but the second was a larger expansion that came with story content along with gameplay material, which included a new dungeon. It was considered worth the price, especially since the pass was less than the average price at $19.99. And here so many people were pessimistic about it.

From Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but not of the DLC.

Meanwhile, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has received a series of content, including items and equipment, a series of new quests and challenges, and will culminate with new story content. These offerings are more rudimentary compared to the best examples of DLC, but they’re still good.

The DLC for Hyrule Warriors was also well liked, which included new characters from Zelda titles that weren’t featured in the game at launch. But keep in mind the game was published in Japan by Koei Tecmo, meaning they likely called the shots here and deserve the credit. This is also why you should blame them for the current Fire Emblem Warriors DLC fiasco, where players had to pay to unlock some (but not all) characters who were already featured as NPCs in the game. They would have been unlockable in a pre-DLC era.

This statement from Kimishima immediately led to plenty of fans thinking Nintendo will eventually embrace the worst kind of DLC. It was like they imagined, say, a Splatoon sequel receiving DLC on par with Star Wars Battlefront II and other disguised pay-to-win titles. But I got the impression that they want to create more content similar to what the games mentioned above received, especially Breath of the Wild. Minor DLC like cosmetic bonuses will be free outside the Amiibo-exclusive material, while larger content will come at a cost.

From Fire Emblem Warriors’ new DLC for Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon characters.

Instead of being too concerned about this, I recommend saving your fear and outrage until they potentially take this too far. There are plenty of gaming types who get upset at the mere mention of “DLC,” but it doesn’t have to be bad, and Nintendo has provided some of the better examples in recent memory. If they ever decide to venture down a dark path like EA or Warner Bros. and start charging for content previously free and add microtransactions, then start complaining loudly. But there won’t be much anyone can do if people buy it despite that.

Part of me is optimistic Nintendo won’t succumb to the level of greed as the publishers mentioned above, and that’s not due to mere naivete. They’ve undoubtedly seen the level of backlash the other publishers received, to the point that the more controversial aspects were altered through patches if they weren’t retracted entirely. They also felt the backlash when certain content was locked behind Amiibo use in BotW and especially Metroid: Samus Returns. But you should still keep an eye on them to make sure they remain generous.

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