It’s all too common of a complaint. A game is released and the same day downloadable content is released alongside it. People think they’re being cheated; they think it’s some conspiracy that developers and publishers have to get some easy extra cash. Well, I’m tired of hearing about it, because if folks understood the process they’d cut developers and publishers some slack. I’m here to set the record straight.

The first thing to get out of the way is whether it’s actual DLC or “unlock” DLC. Unlock DLC is always less than one megabyte and simply enables something already existing in the game. Those are more than fair to be upset about for the most part, but what follows can occasionally apply to unlock DLC as well as actual DLC.

Here’s the problem I have. People don’t understand the certification process to get a game cleared. While developers work they have different plans. Some content is always destined to be DLC and is rarely done by launch. Other content are things they frantically try to get in the full game, but at some point they have to cut their losses to reach deadlines. They put the content they wanted to include aside to make sure they actually get a game finished by the deadline and within the budget. They send it off to Microsoft for certification. But what do they do while they wait?

Answer? They work on that content that couldn’t make it in due to budget or time constraints. Microsoft is busy testing every aspect of the game ensuring it’s as bug-free as possible on release, which can be a long process. Meanwhile the devs are finishing up that content they couldn’t finish in time, packaging it up as DLC. The content gets submitted for certification while Microsoft is still testing the core game. The DLC gets approved quickly as there’s much less to test. In the meantime a back-and-forth continues on the core game until it passes certification. Thus the game has DLC approved prior to the core game, meaning it’s available day one.

Okay, so this wasn't day one DLC, but it's an image of DLC, okay?

So why don’t they include it in the core game in the first place? Simple, the entire game would have to be re-certified, with MS testing everything all over again. Sound dumb? It isn’t. As an application developer myself I can attest to the fact that messing with the core application (or game in this place) in any way can throw all sorts of things out of whack that nobody would have ever expected. Certification is expensive, meaning that it’s far too easy to dump too much money and not make a decent return on the game after release.

So next time you freak out over day one DLC remember that it’s not some conspiracy to get your money. Frankly games are really expensive to make and though the world economy isn’t what it should be just remember nobody is trying to steal your hard earned money. Most of the time they’re just putting things together as best they can, trying to put food on the table at home, and trying to make enough money to make more games. Cut em’ some slack.

Images courtesy of The Angry Video Game Nerd and Ripten