BioWare director explains the math of day-one DLC

Love it or hate it, day-one DLC makes sense for both game developers and consumers, according to BioWare Edmonton director of online development Fernando Melo.

Love it or hate it, day-one downloadable content makes sense for both game developers and consumers, according to BioWare Edmonton director of online development Fernando Melo.

For BioWare, which has included day-one downloadable content for all its games from Dragon Age: Origins to Mass Effect 3, a lot of it boils down to simple math: development budgets for post-launch downloadable content incorporate attach rates for that content against the total sales of the game. That attach rate decreases steadily as weeks after launch pass — according to Melo, putting the content in front of the players on day-one is the best solution for maximizing that budget, and ensuring the best post-launch content that the studio can develop.

It also solves a trickier problem, Melo explained, which is figuring out when players are going to want the content. Some may want it while they're playing the game, but figuring out where to introduce it is difficult. Some may want it once they finish the game, but on average, less than half of players of BioWare's games actually finish them.

We realized that the only way we're going to cater that, and meet both demands, is to have it available day one," Melo said. "Because in that case, you're making it available on their time. They get to choose when to pick that up. It's not based on us, it's not based on some first-party release schedule. It's there, if they want to pick it up, they can, or if they want to wait to finish the game, they can do that too."

As for dealing with backlash from fans over day-one downloadable content, Melo said that developers are still looking for the best way to communicate their intentions. Building a "consistent culture" of day-one downloadable content and communicating how it fits into their development schedule is the best way to build trust, he said, but in a while, industry trends will make that process moot.

"The only way that's going away is, fast forward a few years, where this is just normal," Melo said. "Every game is digital day-one, every game is an ongoing service, almost like an MMO, where at any given day, new content shows up."

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