This weekend, I had the pleasure of purchasing and installing the latest DLC for Mario Kart 8. Not only was I delighted to finally have Link as a driver, but I was reminded of what a DLC is supposed to be: new content that extend the life of a game without undervaluing its initial release. So for all of you game devs out there that may have lost sight of what the true purpose of DLC is (*cough*BUNGIE*cough*), here’s a crash course courtesy of Nintendo:
Firstly, the original release is complete and functional. Passing up on the DLC doesn’t mean you’ll have an inferior gaming experience. Mario Kart 8 came with 4 brand new cups, 4 retro cups with adapted courses to include some of the new features, a full roster of drivers, new items, a great selection of carts and add-on, multiple game modes including solo, multiplayer and online and no pay walls. Mario Kart 8 already guaranteed hours of gameplay and now, I have a reason to play some more. So lesson 1: your DLC shouldn’t undervalue your initial release nor should it be a band-aid to fix bugs that shouldn’t have made it past QA.
Lesson 2: give fans what they want. Nintendo included fan favourites in their DLC: characters, tracks and cars based on popular franchises that haven’t been seen in a Mario Kart before. And they did it brilliantly with great attention to detail. Link uses his staple “HA!” and “ha-YA!” when throwing items, jumping or boosting. If you do a trick jump, he’ll do his well-known sword spin. The Hyrule race track has Rupees instead of coins, the snapping flowers have a Deku plant skin and the item selection sound effect has been replaced with the iconic opening-a-chest jingle. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I could go on about the Excite Bike race track and the revamped SNES Rainbow Road but we need to move on the next lesson.
Lesson 3: make it worth it. Nintendo released 2 DLCs for $7.99 each or bundled in for $11.99 (Note: the Animal Crossing DLC is a pre-order, it’ll be available in May 2015). Let’s see what you get in the Hyrule – Animal Crossing bundle: 6 new characters, 8 new vehicles, 4 new cups (that’s 4 races per cup, so 16 new tracks) with a mix of brand new tracks and remastered classics and if that wasn’t enough, Nintendo threw in a few extra options like different colour choices for Yoshi and Shy Guy. This is not a shameless cash cow, it’s a great deal that is almost too good to pass up!
Yes, Nintendo most likely planned for this DLC while they were making Mario Kart 8 and yes this is about making more money from this popular franchise. The bottom line remains that they delivered a game with $65 worth of content from the get-go and are now offering you even more great content for not even $15. They’ll probably get more downloads this way than if they would have say, oh I don’t know, purposely removed content from their game so they could include it in future DLCs. It’s just good business to plan ahead and invest in your key franchises like this. For me, the Mario Kart 8 DLCs are proof that you can create additional purchasable content all while respecting your consumers. Good game, Nintendo, good game.