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What Are DLCs In Gaming? Downloadable Content Explained

As a gamer, there’s one acronym you should definitely be familiar with. It’s DLC.

And whether you agree with them or not, these digital packages are quickly becoming an essential part of modern gaming on all platforms.

In this guide, I’ll explain what they are, why they are becoming more prevalent, and weigh the pros and cons of in-game DLCs through some examples.

What Does DLC Stand For In Gaming?

DLC stands for downloadable content, which can take on the form of cosmetic items to massive expansions to your game, including new maps and storylines. You will need to use the Internet to download the DLC and purchase the base game before you can use the content of the DLC.

A DLC adds additional features or content to your game, such as new maps, levels, missions, weapons, characters, and other items. Sometimes they’ll include cosmetic changes such as new textures, character skins, costumes, and other aesthetic modifications.

A long time ago, we referred to major updates to games as an “expansion,” but now they are often called DLCs. And once upon a time, these were a free upgrade to the base game that you purchased, but now they often cost money.

Not to be confused with a Season Pass, a DLC may be included in the pass with that season’s content and challenges.

Have you ever encountered the error “You Are Missing The Following Downloadable Content?” Well, my friend, you need to get the DLC before you can access that content.

A good example of that error is in ARMA 3 when you try to get in a vehicle you haven’t purchased the DLC for. You will be able to see the vehicle, and other players who own the DLC will be using it, but you won’t be able to interact with it other than destroying it.

What Are DLC Packs?

A DLC pack is a bundle of content within a single downloadable package. So instead of a DLC being just a single map, it might include several maps and cosmetic items together.

It’s the same idea as expansion packs for physical games but in digital format. Each DLC pack usually has an associated cost and is available on multiple platforms such as PC, console, or mobile.

The size of the DLC pack can vary greatly, from a few megabytes to multiple gigabytes in some cases, depending on the contents and features that are included.

Some games will have multiple DLCs released over time which can be purchased separately or as part of a season pass. This allows you to get all future DLCs for a discounted price instead of buying each one individually.

Finally, pre-order bonuses or exclusive DLCs are only available to those who pre-order the game early on. This could include an extra character, costume, or weapon, which can be used from the start of the game and possibly give you an edge in your gaming experience.

But in the case of online multiplayer games, hopefully, it’s not a Pay-To-Win situation.

What Does Paid DLC Mean?

A paid DLC is downloadable content that you have to pay for on top of the base game. So, in essence, you pay for the game, and then you have to pay for the DLC. And this is where the video game DLC controversy begins.

Some people believe the content should be free, while others don’t mind coughing up more money. The problem is that not all DLCs are created equal. Some feel like a complete ripoff. What’s worse is when the base game feels incomplete without the DLC.

Pros And Cons Of Downloadable Content


  • Can extend the re-playability of the game
  • Can renew the feel of the game without the cost of a new game
  • Can entice more players to join (especially for online gaming)
  • More content is always better
  • Helps the developer fund future updates


  • Usually costs money on top of the price of the game
  • Not always clear what’s included
  • Makes you feel like you didn’t get the full game if you don’t get the DLCs
  • Developers could purposely hold back content in order to sell DLCs

Verdict: Are DLCs Good For Gamers?

When the base game is fulfilling on its own, and you feel like the price paid was worth it, then paying for more downloadable content is not such a bad idea.

Another bonus is that you get the content through official channels and on all available platforms. This means that it is simple to install, and if you run into any problems, it’s easy to get support.

And yes, some DLCs were created by fans for free, but they are certainly outliers in the grand scheme of things. And they often have very particular instructions to install them, little support when things go wrong, and some are just not very well done. Oh yeah, and you won’t find those for any console platform.

I don’t mind paying for a DLC if it allows me to rack up more hours of fun for a fraction of the price of a new game. However, it’s when DLCs become part of a marketing scheme, and you, as the player, don’t feel fulfilled with the base game without the DLC is when it becomes an issue.

About BONE

BONE is the creator of this gaming review blog and spends much of his free time playing the latest games on PC. He's also a computer enthusiast who loves new hardware. Eating cashews and drinking coffee helps him get by during long play sessions.