I obviously don't hate DLC, I've bought hundreds of games and expansions via the Xbox Live Marketplace and Steam. But after years of these add-ons and games, I've noticed patterns and trends limiting this medium of gaming. At least in the eyes of the general public, and even casual gamers; DLC is shady. Though most seasoned gamers know that DLC is legitimate, the prospect of paying for something you can't physically hold on to is relatively new. Where as iTunes has flourished for it's convenience and attractive prices, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation Network receive flack for pricing on many potential purchases. Hundreds of articles have written about how overpriced Call of Duty map packs ruin the gaming industry, or how CAPCOM continues to brutally charge gamers for mostly-useless content. The most cliché argument is of course that “Day-one DLC is a rip off.”
The list of grievances continues: EA's online passes are killing used game sales, online sales promote unnecessary purchases and so on. At the core of these problems is almost always the price-tag attached to whatever someone is trying to sell you. If digital content were cheaper, it might be better approved. However the “convenience” factor is instant downloading is considered by many an incentive enough, and sometimes digital purchases cost more than the identical retail/physical counterpart. Outside of the major releases going digital, digital distribution has allowed for independent developers to receive more attention and claim a spot among the “real” developers.
A common misunderstanding and way of thinking about digital games is that they're “small” or “not real” video-games. It's not entirely unorthodox to think that way- there are hundreds of overpriced digital games that fit into this category. For instance when comparing something like Pac-Man to a modern game, you wonder why even five dollars can be charged for such a retro game. Even when looking at a smash hit like Castle Crashers, fifteen dollars is very expensive. It seems that since digital games can be purchased so quickly and easily, gamers might not compare the pricing to comparable retail games. While Blacklight: Tango Down is still one of my favorite XBLA games to date, it's only slightly less expensive than Halo: Reach; can you guess which still has a community in the tens of thousands? Even when looking at a content perspective, Reach offered a single player and multiplayer experience- most digital titles only give one or the other.
To be fair, new retail games typically retail around $60.00. Digital titles on consoles rarely surpass $15.00. Though this $45.00 difference seems to account for the missing level of graphics, story, audio and content missing from your average digital download. Even the best of digital games usually only provide one area of amazing quality. Though Braid may have had brilliant features across the board, it certainly wasn't lengthy; and the graphics were only of relatively high quality. Meaning that for an XBLA game it was great, but when compared to the most basic of retail games it was dated. Digital developers primarily go the route of cel-shaded and 2D art to achieve smooth graphics, without ever attaining quality on an overly technical level.
At least as of now, it seems that digital games are in a slump. They are cheaper, and therefore their quality is expected to be lesser. We oftentimes accept these low standards, but if digital developers wish to gain respect amongst the casual gamers they will need to either drop prices or raise quality. Again: I'm not halting my support of these titles, but I am a disappointed at their general rate of improvement since this current generation of gaming began.