The Power of Free DLC

As I've noted a few times I'm pretty much only playing Dragon Quest IX game-wise.  It's a great, deep, addictive, and just plain fun RPG with a lot to do, plenty of character, and some great challenges.

It's also got a very interesting amount of Downloadable Content.

Every day one can log into the game and get a chance to get bargains through a shopping network.  Reguarly, new quests (some of which can't be completed until you win the game) will be available.  Some characters from past games show up, which can provide you with bonuses.

This is all free, by the way, and from what I've seen (and read in the voluminous hint book), there is a LOT of free/unlockable content.  Yes, it seems a lot of this is just unlocked by making a wi-fi connection, but still, it's a ton of extra stuff.  This is on top of all the extra post-game elements, like random dungeons, past bosses to battle, and more.

So the game has a huge amount of content.  There's more content you get for logging in via wi-fi.  There's also some extra in-game sales you get.  You could probably play the game for six months or more to see it all.

So I began wondering about such a content-rich game.  I also began thinking about free DLC for games.  Once a game is sold, what is the value to a game producer to provide things for free?  Wouldn't it be better to charge?

After some analysis, I realized there are quite a few benefits.

Before I go into them, let me digress into the idea that "free is bad."  Many people seem to assume somehow that "free" always means "a loss."  As most any good marketer and publicity person knows, especially in the age of the internet, giving away free things is actually a good marketing tool.  It allows for "try-before-you-buy" and builds trust.

DLC is giving things away after purchase – but you're still building trust with people.  Next time you buy a game, you're going to remember the company that provided you plenty of free goodies.

But this "give-after-the-sale" has lots of other benefits as well, beyond goodwill.  It's something to consider if you're in gaming or have DLC as part of other media efforts.

DLC keeps people playing your game.  When they're playing your game they aren't playing competitor's games.  That gives you a chance to edge them out of the market.

DLC reduces interest in selling your game back because it has a longer life.

Finally DLC, done right, keeps mindshare – until your next game.  I can easily see companies planning DLC to last as a "bridge" to keep people's interest to their next title.

Free isn't bad.  In the case of DLC for games and the like?  It may be pretty beneficial when you think about it . . .

Steven Savage