Some folks see paid downloadable content (DLC) as an affordable way to extend the experience of the games that they love. Others view it as a sneaky method by which publishers manage to eke out extra cash from players who've already invested $60 in a game, and that this content ought to be included in the retail price. The latter may be disappointed to learn that paid DLC is proving a lucrative cash cow for game makers and will likely only grow in years to come.
That's the verdict issued in a new report from Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR) that presents the findings of a survey of 3,500 Canadian and American gamers. A press snippet of the study states that 51 per cent of high-definition console (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) owners have purchased downloadable content in the last 12 months, an increase from 40 per cent in 2010 and 34 per cent in 2009. These purchases will account for $875-million in revenue in North America this year, and EEDAR believes that number will head north of $1-billion in 2012, and that $2-billion DLC dollars will be collected worldwide.
That means that an awful lot of us are buying those extra maps, weapons, and skins that publishers like to offer up in the months following a game's release.
EEDAR is optimistic that even more will do so in the future as publishers hone their DLC strategies by properly timing the release of new content, advertising it more effectively, and coming up with tantalizing new promotions, such as the emerging "season pass" model used for games like Gears of War 3 , which allows players to pre-purchase all upcoming DLC at once for a discounted price.
And the 49 per cent of us who didn't purchase DLC this year? The study found that nearly half of gamers who didn't purchase add-ons cited privacy as their chief concern. One might be temped to think this stems directly from Sony's infamous data breach this past spring, but EEDAR's research, which was conducted both before and after Sony's security fiasco, found that privacy concerns differed by only four points in the prior and post data sets.
Other gamers who declined DLC said that that they thought it was too expensive and were perturbed about the lack of a return policy. Perhaps surprisingly, given the many gamers who complain loudly about DLC on gaming forums, only 11 per cent said they don't purchase additional game content because they think it's generally of poor quality.
A billion bucks spent on add-ons might sound like a lot, but EEDAR notes that the 49 per cent of gamers who didn't purchase DLC in 2011 represent an unrealized market potential of $600-million. The research firm suggests that the best way for game publishers to get these holdouts to hop on board the DLC train is for publishers, developers, and console manufacturers to collaborate with one another. Given the amount of cash at stake, this shouldn't be a hard sell.