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GR Asks: How do devs decide the size and price of DLC?

Welcome to GR Asks, our weekly Q&A with the games industry that answers questions submitted by YOU. Is there something game-related you’ve never seen addressed? Message GRAsks  and we may just get it answered!

GR Asks: How do developers decide the size and price of downloadable content?

Answered by: Todd Howard, game director for Fallout 3

“For us, it’s a mix of what excites us, what we can actually accomplish, and what we feel the audience wants. Our strategy with Oblivion was to try lots of things from the very quick and inexpensive, like the Spell Tomes at one dollar, to mid-size things like Knights of the Nine at $10, and then the huge Shivering Isles at $30. It was very experimental for us, both in terms of content and cost. At first we priced it based on what Microsoft was charging for a theme, so if a theme is 150 points, then Horse Armor should be 200 points.”


Above: Oblivion’s first DLC, the infamous horse armor

“Even though it sold like mad, people certainly felt that was too much money and moving forward we priced it based on what we thought it was actually worth, and didn’t worry about established prices. I think there’s precedent now for pricing, but when we started, there wasn’t. For better or worse, we helped set that precedent with Oblivion.”


Above: Recent Fallout 3 DLC “The Pitt” offers about five hours of play

“For Fallout, we decided the sweet spot for us developing and for what the users wanted was to do themed “packs”, not one-off weapons or armors, but a pack that comes as one long adventure that has its own identity, that has some more meat on it. And so far, that model has been very popular both internally and externally.”

Thanks, Todd!

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25 comments

  • cart00n - July 8, 2009 9:43 a.m.

    I LOVED Oblivion. I bought every dlc that ever became available. To this day, it is the ONLY 360 game to interest me enough to get all the achievements. Fallout 3? Still haven't really gotten into it. First off, while they give you all sorts of ways to personalize your character, you learn pretty soon that if you don't invest in certain attributes early and often, the game becomes unplayable pretty quickly. Secondly, the environment is SO colorless. So I let it collect dust for quite a few months. Recently, I've started into it again. We'll see how long that takes... By the bye: all you PS3 gamers whining about "exclusive dlc" on Xbox, your console is just as guilty - what's this I hear about exclusive dlc for the upcoming Batman game from Eidos/Square-Enix Europe? Yeah, screw you guys! I'd give my eye-teeth to play as Joker with Mark Hamill's manic one-liners gleefully strung about as I use Joker's various wacky weapons to take out hapless guards. On top of that, I'd really like to play Uncharted, as well, but until I'm able to afford Sony's black behemoth, I shan't be playing either any time soon. Dem's da breaks, as me Mama used to say. @Random: While mods are technically dlc, most of them were made "out in the wild" by talented individuals not employed by the original developers. As they are working with someone else's IP, they are not allowed to profit from their hard work. Hence, they are free to whomever has the ability to download it. If a mod is particularly good, it might attract enough positive attention from the original developers to inspire an acquisition of said mod/modders; but the original mod will always remain free. A lot of developer created dlc still gets charged for, but not always. @anduin: It's attitudes like this that have inspired many developers to use Byzantine protection measures on the retail copies, or to walk away from PC development altogether. Enjoy PC's "no-man's land" while it lasts...
  • solsunforge - July 7, 2009 9:20 p.m.

    Crumb, fallout 1 and 2 were great but to say fallout 3 wasnt as good would be silly. It was a great game with unique quests and it was a gameplay experience I will look back on in many years. There arent to many games that can do that to people. i havent been gaming as long as you only about 20 years of my life but in those 20 years i can seriously think of about 12 games that I will constanly remember and tell others about and share memories with others. Fallout 3 is one of those games.
  • crumbdunky - June 14, 2009 8:41 p.m.

    SCrew Bethesda. Obnly they can get away with making gamers pay for the priveleges of DOING THEIR QA on EVERY game AND bit of DLC! sometimes, as with Oblivion, they don't even patch the bugs! I got the Vampire Curse twice! Then they get me all excited for the shooter/RPG hybuid they're making out of my favourite western RPG series EVER. AND it sucks. Firstly I have to do QA again, then the shooting is borked, and VATS is too and they re-use as much as possible from Oblivion(actors backgrounds)and finally wreck said favourite series. And , you know what makes it worse? Everyone, 90% of whom have no clue how great F1 and 2 were then claim it's the "ZOMG!! GOTY!!!" when, in fact, it's the biggest single diappointment in my 30 years of gaming. The Horse Armour, however, was the bollocks! I've had to get some that matches for my actual horse.
  • anduin1 - June 1, 2009 11:27 p.m.

    @random because you have no other choice, you will either buy it or you won't. PC people will always get it for free because piracy > devs. I remember that achorage dlc for FO3 dropped and when I saw how many of them had been downloaded by the end of the day, it was close to 120k :D
  • Tombat14 - May 1, 2009 4:13 a.m.

    hate halo 3 DLC but mythic looks cool recaptcha:inc hangouts
  • BadLadJon - April 30, 2009 8:15 p.m.

    so i spend about £200 more on a PS3 and still get ripped of for DLC? damn i wish i had an Xbox 360
  • richtaur - April 30, 2009 6:40 p.m.

    Good stuff. I'm especially glad you spoke with Bethesda as opposed to anyone else because they release some of the most anticipated DLC.
  • solidocelot - April 30, 2009 6:07 p.m.

    console racism lol
  • Xplosive59 - April 30, 2009 3:32 p.m.

    bethesda you bunch of douche bags if ps3 owners are also your audience why not give DLC to us aswell. I know you were bribed by MS to get exclusivity for it but thats no excuse for us ps3 owners getting a watered down glitchy experience unlike 360 owners why make the graphics worse on a more graphically capable system isnt that basically console racism? If the Xbox owners get a different ending to the game where they can still go wondering around why cant we? That brings me onto the fact that you say the endings are endless and that they are so amazing, endless were you smoking crack when you said that, there are 4, FOUR! and the endings have barely any difference and felt like someone spilt coffee over the real ending and made up one in their lunch hour, im suprised you didnt say IT WAS JUST A DREAM or that kinda crap! Its not that i think fallout 3 is a bad game i absolutely love it but whats makes 360 owners better than Ps3 owners P.s you R Douche bags Bethesda
  • sinkingfeeling - April 30, 2009 2:44 p.m.

    I own a PS3 and as such have 0 fallout DLC. I hate Microsoft for starting this 'pay for exclusives' crap but i also hate Sony for just allowing them to and not trying to counter bid them. I love Fallout 3 and am just disappointed it all had to end, until i restarted that was. Still, no DLC sucks!
  • garnsr - April 29, 2009 9:35 p.m.

    Their DLC may be more worth it now than the horse armor was, but I think the pricing for add-ons like costumes and weapons, which should be unlockable in the game, is still crazy. And $10 for three more missions, like Saint's Row 2, just seems like too much. Capcom and Namco are leading the charge to charge for every little thing that we expected to get for doing a good job once upon a time. And there's no physical storage space needed for this stuff, they can keep it around forever, charging the same amount for old games' add-ons, unlike disc-based games that drop in price eventually. It's almost all profit for DLC.
  • DEFAULT - April 29, 2009 9:21 p.m.

    it seems they learned pretty quickly from their first gamechanging release. thank god dlc is worth it now
  • Ddz53 - April 29, 2009 9:19 p.m.

    Horse armor lol
  • anduin1 - June 1, 2009 11:25 p.m.

    this is an easy answer to the question: as little content as possible and as much as they can possibly charge before people start bitching too much a la horse armor. Seriously, you guys are all sheep following what they want you to do. Im still DLC free and have played all of the FO3 ones, all the oblivion ones, Ill find a way to get lost & the damned on PC too
  • Randomx1978 - May 3, 2009 8:06 a.m.

    the one thing that gets me about DLC,is that why is it only console owners on the whole have to pay for it,if you got any of these games your talking about for the PC then theres endless expanses of DLC and mods, for absoloutely bugger all!! so why is it that console owners have to pay for something when its free on a PC???
  • Spybreak8 - May 1, 2009 7:29 p.m.

    More please, I like these GR asks articles. I also need to beat Oblivion and Fallout 3 to appreciate the DLC thats out. Grabbed Shivering Isles when it went down to 15 bucks but I still haven't play it lol.
  • Slay3r - May 1, 2009 11:42 a.m.

    Look at it this way at least you guys can get DLC i live in the middle of nowhere and so i cant get XBOX LIVE so im forced to read about these things
  • OldRustyDusty - May 1, 2009 6:27 a.m.

    The DLC theme packs are nice, 5 hours of gameplay isn't too shabby, but I still prefer a whole huge $30 expansion over a couple of small packs. Shivering Isles was absolutely spectacular, and Morrowind's 2 expansions, Tribunal and Bloodmoon were both quite good as well. Something is just more appealing and enjoyable when a bethsoft expansion can easily bring in another 30+ hours of gameplay.
  • JohnnyMaverik - April 30, 2009 7:51 p.m.

    "it seems they learned pretty quickly from their first gamechanging release. thank god dlc is worth it now" nonononono >.< Morrowind was a gamechanging release, and u can pick up GOTY, with both the expansions and the construction kit for modding for dirt cheep these days, and it was only about the price of one game when it was released AND ALL THE DLC, IS, FREEE!!!! Why, oh why, did Bethesda become greedy -_- Give us more free shit bethesda!!!
  • SwishiestB0g - April 30, 2009 6:56 p.m.

    About the Halo 3 DLC, the only way to get people to buy them is to make then needed. As it would spoil the game for the people who did buy them as they wouldn't be able to play on the new maps as fewer people would have them. I love fallout's DLC except for the first, it was kinda stupid you get to do it once you know? If Bethesda chooses to take said money from MS then it's their choice and it's not racism. If you wanted better graphics then you would have had to wait for another few weeks, months, or maybe even a year. Don't be mad at Bethesda be mad at Sony for not doing anything about it. Anyways, LOVED Fallout 3, keep up the great work Bethesda!

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