Nintendo’s newfound adoration for small packages of DLC is nothing to be astounded by. At least, not in 2015 and not when the company has a struggling system like Wii U. Nintendo not only had to put its best foot forward after reviving the console post-Mario Kart 8, but it’s had to focus almost entirely on breathing life into a plethora of titles that would otherwise be one-and-done on consoles seen years prior.
A perfect showcase of Nintendo’s acceptance of DLC would be Super Smash Bros. The game before was known for giving people the characters they wanted from the start, giving them different ways to play the game, and working around the “flaws” in a character’s fighting style. Now, with downloadable content in the form of patches or updates, fighters can be nerfed (made not as strong) and additional things can be added. Nintendo recently released new fighters Lucas, Mewtwo, and Ryu, and added a plethora of costumes for the Mii Fighters. This isn’t new or surprising.
Nintendo released Wii U under the pretense that Wii’s success will simply carry over. However, the company’s assumptions got the best of it and marketing got the worst of consumers, and sales never really soared the way Wii managed to. First, the name Wii U didn’t strike anyone as new and exciting, and unfortunately led people to believe it was simply an add-on for the current Wii. This led to a few commercials addressing the fact, but unless you can inject the information directly into a parent’s head, then it’s essentially a lost cause. Then there was the whole fiasco with Wii U’s releasing while Wii was still selling relatively well. For customers and parents alike, there was little reason for them to buy a Wii U immediately after buying a Wii and being told by persons X and Y that Wii had enough content to hold them over for years. This led to the absolute abysmal sales of Wii U.
Then comes the great idea of DLC. DLC lets Nintendo make the great games it has always made while consistently pushing out new characters, maps, and ideas for a small price. On a $60 game, you can find yourself picking up a character from your favorite series (obviously being Mother 3) for only $5.99. The great thing about the distribution of content here is that you aren’t, in essence, missing anything by not purchasing Lucas and you’re not obligated to do so. The price itself is low, but if you do not want to buy it for whatever reason, your indulgence is not hindered.
DLC also manages to create a new way for games to be prolonged. Before, namely with Nintendo games, they were beaten and eventually forgotten about unless a hankering came along to play the games every once in a while. With titles like Mario Kart, which excel at being excellent party games, adding DLC makes the party newer each time. You’re able to now race as Animal Crossing characters as well as Link from Legend of Zelda. These additions don’t muddy the series but expand it, and without them the gameplay feels rather vanilla. Gamers without these characters can’t experience the new things and new levels found in the map packs, but they can still find the base enjoyment that has forever been present in Mario Kart games.
The best thing to acknowledge when viewing these titles is that Nintendo has taken older games that are still here and given them a lifeline by adding new content to them. By adding new characters, ones from other series, into Mario Kart 8, it has made the game feel fresh to those who have yet to bite the bullet, and also to those who have been loving the game for over a year. Splatoon is taking a similar approach, but the difference displayed there is that the content is never-ending and always abundant. Nintendo has had over ten new updates that introduce new weapons based on a set release schedule, extending the game’s lifetime by constantly introducing new life into its veins. With most shooting games, you can only do so much before you become tired of it, but with Splatoon, Nintendo has released a steady stream of new features to keep players coming back. Free content, on top of DLC in the form of Amiibo figurines, all packed into a brand new IP. It’s a recipe for greatness and so far, the cake has yet to be completed.
Nintendo and DLC were not friends for a very long time. Iwata, Miyamoto, and company had mentioned how DLC would hinder the core values of what Nintendo stood for, but it is by no surprise that it is here and present in games released today. Nintendo has made waves in the gaming industry and has no visible plans of stopping any time soon, so it’s only logical that it would release small, ideal packages of DLC in different forms. When we see things like Splatoon exist alongside things like Smash Bros., it’s clear Nintendo is taking the high road to downloadable content by offering varied and, above all, substantial updates to its games rather than using it to milk more money out of its fan base.