Geometry Wars 3 and Helldivers show how to do DLC right (and wrong)

Both Helldivers (which I love) and Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions (which I really respect that everybody else loves) announced their first post-launch DLC today, and my twin-stick shooter of choice is looking a little stingy in comparison.

Geometry Wars: Dimensions Evolved adds in 40 new Adventure mode stages, complete with new boss battles, gameplay types, grid shapes, and kit like the Sweeper drone and Detonator super ability. It also goes back and reworks the level gating system, making it easier to unlock the stuff that was already in the game.

If you think all that's for amateurs, let's talk about Hardcore mode. It makes you fight through 20 dedicated levels with no drones or super abilities, all for old-school glory (and leaderboard placement). Sounds pretty nice, so how much will Evolved set you back? Not a cent. It will be a free update for all Geometry Wars 3 owners on March 31, and new buyers can get it the same day for the same $14.99 / £11.99 price as before.

What about my darling Helldivers? Well, you're free to spend $2.99 a piece (or $5.99 bundled together, UK prices TBA) on three new sets of gear: the Commando, Defender, and Support Packs each add in new uniform pieces, weapons, and secondary weapon systems. The Defender and Support packs look particularly useful, since they add in new drone backpacks which can automatically blast foes or heal and repair your allies, respectively.

These packs are releasing two weeks after Helldivers first hit PSN for $19.99 / £16.99. It's a co-op game, so they're not going to throw off any competitive balance, but do you want to be the only one in your squad without a sweet rechargeable drone helping out in firefights? Are you sure you're a true Super Earth patriot and not a cyborg sympathizer?

I try to suppress any knee-jerk negative reaction to paid DLC, since it can be done well. But seeing Helldivers hustle players whose not-insignificant charges for the original game may not have even appeared on their bank statements yet, while Geometry Wars 3 yells "SURPRISE! Everybody gets free stuff!" four months after release, both on the very same morning, raises some questions.

Why is Geometry Wars 3 being so generous? If you read GR+'s review, you know we were already delighted by the game as it was in November. Maybe Sierra and Lucid Games will make more money by marketing a new package, buoyed by good will from previous owners, than they would by selling Evolved separately?

On the other hand, Arrowhead and Sony aren't violating some ethical imperative by charging for Helldivers DLC so soon after launch. It's just making me a bit less excited to tread the long path of unlocking gear for my character. Why not wait and see what other rad new drones they put up for sale?

One method sacrifices sales to an established audience in favor of expanding the market, and the other doubles down on dedicated players. Since Geometry Wars 3 is largely single player, and Helldivers thrives on its online community, it's interesting that they're not the other way around.

Then again, Helldivers still has plenty of time to surprise me. A huge, free update a few months down the line could shut me right up (hint hint).