The Dissonance in Dark Souls II DLC
On June 4, publisher Bandai Namco regaled the world with news of more Dark Souls II, through downloadable content. Everyone loves more of the toughest game on the planet. What's not so great is the announcement's pitch: "DLC Trilogy." It resonates with the sounds of a hundred board meetings; a download trilogy. It has within itself the essence of the product, luckily. Still, the term, as well as the delivery, is a missed opportunity or even a somewhat botched approach to an otherwise promising prospect. Before we venture into the new, challenging locations of the game, let's explore why this should've been handled differently.
So, what exactly is this DLC Trilogy, which is extra capitalized for emphasis? It's pretty much just that; three pieces of downloadable content, brought piece by piece, that each have a fresh area, new monsters and yet undefeated bosses. They come in three pieces, sold separately, but it's also available as one convenient bundle, payable upfront, in a Season Pass. A Season Pass is what routinely is seen in the mainstream franchises. Shooters and spectacle adventures sell air like this, but roleplaying games and niche genres generally don't. There are already preorders to trap fans.
It's not a cheap contract signed between parties either. A pass costs about €25. That's about 40% of the main entry ticket, which is sizable enough to warrant a full-on expansion. That's the issue here, really. Instead of a DLC Trilogy, we should've been given an official Dark Souls II expansion. Even its name makes it sound like one: The Lost Crowns. It isn't one though. It's a set of DLC tidbits. Its first chapter will arrive on July 22, while the rest will be stretched out into September of 2014. An expansion wouldn't have multiple frustrating waiting periods. It'd have just one; one teeth-gnashing wait for more souls.
New Territory Isn't Always New Territory
An expansion, as opposed to DLC, is the divide between Dark Souls, its crowd and the announced content. Every fiber of the series is built on traditional values. Players are set with a coarse challenge, don't get any explanation how to beat it and they get brutally punished upon failure. It's hardcore, just like the games of yesteryear. This adventure attracts two crowds. Older gamers, the old guard, who want to get back to basics with explorative discovery and elitists, those who want the badge of honor that comes with taming this beast. They connect to each other well, because there's a sense of superiority that comes with a proficiency in the series. It's like a hierarchy between knights and commoners.
Those elites, the knights of the gaming realm; they aren't dazzled by empty buzzwords. A trilogy needs to have a galactic conquest or some sort of ring in it. A Season Pass is what the populace goes for in their Titanfalls and Assassin's Creeds. These frivolities are lost on the Souls demographic, which is in tune with the game and the old ideas it stands for, not the new fads it wants to reach. Bandai Namco wants to actively target convention.
What Really Makes It Last?
Still, the DLC Trilogy isn't just a shoddy idea by name alone; that would be a bit too demanding. There has been DLC in the series before and it has done well, again, because everyone loves more of this feast. No, choosing for a set of releases, instead of one big expansion, also slumps the overall impact the move could pull off. Now, each area will be trickling in, one at a time, giving its players just a taste of adventure. If that's not frustrating for all audiences, at least it's not as mesmerizing as suddenly being presented with a whole new world. It could've achieved that by doubling down on an expansion.
Imagine loving everything Dark Souls II had to offer and suddenly being dropped in a fully new continent to explore. It's like a kid in a candy store, being given another candy store. Yes, the price of it all justifies an excess of new stuff and it also echoes better with the community to group it as one, but the main selling point for Bandai Namco would be that an expansion would astonish people, making it unforgettable through time. That, too, is what Dark Souls is all about: Making people's jaws drop.
Noobs Are Back On The Menu
Now, there is a business strategy behind the triple DLC release, beyond the trendy pitch. Dropping each piece over a period of time also locks in players. Increasing active players helps the game to stay relevant, as social media is abuzz with blurbs of fresh content. In theory, that's a sound move. Except, in the case of Dark Souls II, keeping its players in the game isn't an issue. Those who can stomach it, stay in the world forever, talking about it incessantly. There's that elitist attitude again; the need for validation. It also appears whenever someone criticizes the franchise in any way, which quickly brings forth a swarm of rhetoric on how 'you're playing it wrong.'
Adversely, the new heads of casual onlookers Dark Souls II would receive from the added advertising are already being spat out on a regular basis, certainly when facing those veterans in the competitive elements. There might be a few additional sales of the base game, but not that much follow through on getting DLC also. If that's really enough incentive for the company to start alienating its main audience, it's a shallow reason. Newcomers who develop an aversion to the series may even consistently counteract the campaign over its extended period of time.
Dotting The Eyes
Regardless of the arguments brought here, The Lost Crowns DLC Trilogy will do well for Dark Souls II. That's not the point. More so, charting the trend-hopping aspect of the announcement is here to show there would've been a simple and constructive way to provide a more cohesive solution. An expansion wouldn't require much effort, since all its parts are already there. Hell, it would fit the company better overall, certainly because players wouldn't be able to pick up one DLC part and then bail out. Think smart, Bandai Namco, for us and for you. Everyone wins, relatively. No one ever really wins in Dark Souls. You fail less than others.