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What is DLC? Understanding downloadable content, a feature of nearly every new game

Chrissy Montelli   

What is DLC? Understanding downloadable content, a feature of nearly every new game
  • DLC means "downloadable content," and refers to features in video games that are downloaded separately from the main game.
  • DLC can include extra items, characters, levels, costumes, and more.
  • Most big games nowadays have DLC, which can be free or cost money, depending on the game.

Buying a video game isn't strictly a one-time purchase anymore. Once you own a game, it'll typically offer you extra content and features with what's commonly referred to as DLC.

What does DLC mean?

In gaming, DLC stands for "downloadable content." It refers to add-ons to a game that give it extra features that weren't included with the game's initial release.

You usually download DLC through whichever online store you bought or run the game through, whether that be Steam, the PlayStation Store, or another platform.

Although it's usually associated with modern games, DLC has been around for years. The Sega Dreamcast, one of the first video game consoles that could connect to the internet, had DLC for a few of its major games. DLC became more commonplace upon the release of the Xbox 360, which expanded the availability of extra content through its Xbox Live service. PlayStation and Nintendo followed suit with their respective online services. The rise in popularity of PC gaming on Steam also helped tremendously.

Nowadays, as more users buy games digitally instead of on physical discs, DLC is incredibly common. Most big games from major studios (often called AAA games) offer DLC. It's become a major aspect of the gaming industry, and can extend a game's popularity and money-making potential for years.

The different types of DLC

There are different kinds of DLC available for all types of games. Some of them affect gameplay and take up a lot of space on your console, while others are hardly noticeable.

DLC can include extra stories and levels, new characters, unlockable weapons, bonus items, and more depending on the type of game. DLC can also be cosmetic, changing a character's appearance with a new outfit or modification (these are often referred to as "skins"). Some DLC might just be bug fixes.

Some games offer DLC for free, which you can download from your console's online gaming store. However, it's much more common for companies to charge for DLC, especially if it adds a significant amount of content.

Games that have a lot of DLC released over time may offer a package deal called a "season pass." Season passes include all current and future DLC for a given game, usually at a discounted price, so you only need to pay for the game's DLC once even if some of it hasn't been released yet.

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