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Should future Smash games feature free or paid DLC?

paid DLC

DLC, since its inception, has been a controversial aspect of gaming. Smash 4, in the eyes of many, is an example of paid DLC done right. The game featured new characters, new stages and additional Mii fighter outfights for a year after the game’s launch. This made Smash 4’s life better, since every new character coming out kept the Smash community excited and engaged with the game long after the Smash 4’s release. Smash 4 definitely proved that DLC works for the series.

That said, DLC itself has been changing. Many recent games such as Street Fighter V and Overwatch have opted for free DLC releasing throughout the game’s life. While both of these examples incorporate additional purchases such as a season pass and loot boxes, not all games with free DLC eek out more money. Other Nintendo IPs such as Splatoon and ARMS both roll out their content via free DLC released over time. Free DLC seems to be becoming more common, to the point that it could become the standard for competitive games. With that in mind, should future Smash games use this model? Let’s talk about it.

Supporting high quality DLC

Creating additional content for a game post-launch obviously takes up resources. That, in itself, is a common and fair argument for paid DLC. That argument is quite fair given the overall quality of Smash 4’s DLC. Smash 4’s additional stages were well-made, but the real meat of Smash 4’s DLC was the characters. The seven DLC characters clearly had a lot of time and resources put into creating them. They’re just as complex and fully-realized characters as any of the characters available at launch.

paid DLC
Smash 4 released paid DLC, and price to all available DLC added up over time. Should this be seen as a reason to try free DLC instead, or should the pricing just be tweaked? Image: Nintendo

What makes Smash 4’s additional content of such great quality is that there is no obvious divide between DLC and non-DLC characters. The additional content added into the game feels like a natural extension of the core game, which was already brimming with content at launch to begin with. Many would argue that such high quality DLC would only be possible if it is paid. The money garnered from the purchases of the DLC would pay for the added development costs.

If future Smash games are to have similar amounts of content that Smash 4 had at launch, then it is perhaps unrealistic to expect the game to provide additional content for free. The previously mentioned Street Fighter V and Overwatch gain funds for DLC development costs through additional purchasing options. Nintendo is highly unlikely to include microtransactions in a full-price game, especially in the aftermath of the recent Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco. But how would Nintendo go about adding additional content?

paid dlc
Would free DLC be more likely for a new Smash Bros. with a similar amount of content to that of Melee’s? Image: Nintendo.

Argument for Free dlc

If future Smash games feature DLC, this author can imagine two possible approaches to releasing content. One of which features free DLC and the other features paid DLC. Both of these approaches intended to realistic more than hopeful.

Free DLC could be featured on a game that features less overall content than Smash 4 did. Smash 4 included a variety of modes and other content that is supplementary to the main experience of playing Smash. Modes such as Smash Run and Smash Tour are distractions that didn’t retain audiences for too long. Additionally, there are so many single-player and co-op content in Smash 4 – far outweighing the likes seen in Melee. It could be realistically imagined that Nintendo would implement free DLC in a future Smash game if the game featured less modes and overall content than Smash 4 at launch.

Argument for Paid DLC

Perhaps the largest issue with Smash 4’s DLC was its pricing. To buy all of DLC stages and characters, one would have to pay $45.38 USD plus tax. If one were to buy all of the additional Mii fighter costumes, that would bringing the total cost of DLC to $74.63 USD, well over the price of the Wii U game itself. And this is all assuming one only buys content for one version of the game.

Should consumers be expected to pay this much for new stages, characters, and costumes? Some would argue that we should. Left to right: Cost 3DS content, Cost of Wii U Content, Cost of Wii U and 3DS Bundled Content. Image Courtesy of Seteveisak on Reddit.

To expect someone to spend this much money on DLC is quite ridiculous. It’s clearly overpriced, especially in regard to the Mii fighter costumes. However, the overall amount of content and the rate at which it came out were quite good. If future Smash entries use paid DLC, they should offer a slightly lower amount of content in exchange for lowering the price of the content. If Nintendo needs to price the DLC to fund the additional development costs, then this seems like the most optimal negotiation. In addition, future Smash games could have similar or even greater levels of content than Smash 4 provided.

More OPtions and possiblities

These are the two most likely scenarios from the perspective of this author. This isn’t to say that there are other methods in regards to how DLC can be handled in future Smash games. This is where we’ll turn it to you. Do you think future Smash games should feature free or paid DLC? Should they have DLC to begin with? As always, join the conversation and let us know!



Featured image courtesy of Nintendo via

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