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DLC at No Extra Cost: Paradox Interactive

Paradox Interactive is one of those publishers where if you’ve heard of them, you’ve really heard of them and the multitude of interesting or niché games they’ve worked on.

Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV, Victoria II, Stellaris, and City Skylines are just a few of the major titles that have captured many a players eye looking to scratch that strategic itch of cultivation, calamity (player induced or otherwise), consumption, and good old fashioned conquest.

Avid Paradox fans, and those who watch the trends of publishers who embrace DLC, will also know that Paradox has earned the ire of many for what are considered ‘outrageous’ DLC practices. From Crusader Kings II onwards, Paradox has developed a trend of releasing a full price title [example: Stellaris at £34.99/$39.99 on Steam] and then continuing to develop additional DLC, ranging from music packs priced at £2.89/$3.99 [on Steam], to core gameplay overhauls and new mechanic introductions at £15.49/$19.99.

At first, to many players, this may seem reasonable. DLC is the bread and butter of how many publishers obtain the ability to work on longer projects that may reduce in profitability over time. However, Paradox finds criticism in the fact that this –

Crusader Kings II – Every DLC Combined on Steam

– is often intimidating, concerning, and a drive-away for players wanting to get involved in their games. How can a new player be encouraged to take up arms, muskets, or lasers against their enemy on a multi-level complex campaign when they’re staring at a price point that’ll be burning a significant hole in their wallet? Likewise, how can players trust that these ideas are being added on out of genuine passion and not being withheld from the core experience? In a Reddit AMA in 2016 Producer Johan Andersson had this to say when asked about DLC: “We had basically just Sword of Islam as an idea, then we kept designing as we went for the next two, but after that we’ve had an archive of the next 3-5 expansions for both games always written in more or less detail.”

Sword of Islam allows the player, who in the base game of Crusader Kings II could only play as a Christian ruler, to play as a Muslim nation while expanding and adding new mechanics to those Muslim nations which may seem fair to many. However, remembering that the map of Crusader Kings II looks like this –

Authors Note: The India region did not exist in 2016 as an area and was a free update, that also came with additional DLC to allow the player to play as to then play as the new region.

The player is essentially being confined to Europe, the Western part of Russia, and the Byzantine Empire for a map that includes Northern Africa, the Middle East, the Steppes, and Northern Europe. All of which would eventually become playable in further DLC’s.

This isn’t to say Paradox hasn’t made strides, even in 2016 they were aware of issues with the DLC policy they had in place:

There is usually a DLC collection that contains all DLC’s up to the one before the last I think. It’s a tricky thing though as our policy is that people should be able to pick exactly what they want to pay for. If we only offered bundles people who already own some may be at an disadvantage. We really don’t want to punish our loyal fans for the sake of newcomers by forcing them to buy extra stuff. We are constantly re-evaluating how we best can present the game though. We know that it is confusing and deterring for new players to see that list, for sure.

And now in the end of 2018, Europa Universalis IV – Golden Century has come out and the 1.28.1 update that will readjust what mechanics are in what DLC, to restructure those DLC mechanics that have become integral to the core gameplay as new expansions are built on top.

Likewise, an outcry in late 2017 about the amount people paying in relation to content being received from Paradox did prompt slight price restructuring post-Jade Dragon DLC in ‘Crusader Kings II’ which led to Stellaris and EU4 both revising their price point policy and what would be included in future packs.

Though Paradox Interactive is seeming to take the mounting criticism to heart.

Stellaris has recently received it’s latest DLC in the form of Megacorp, and with a future title Imperator Rome releasing in 2019, fans do want to know how much of their wallet will they need to put aside to continue to enjoy these games to their fullest. But in the debate of whether or not it’s suitable to keep producing large quantities of DLC, Johan had this to say in Paradox’s 2016 Reddit AMA: “As long as you keep buying them, we keep making them.”

So as ever, consumers will have to vote with their wallet on whether or not they agree.

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