Downloadable add-ons are now a firm fixture of the gaming calendar. They have been for years, in fact. And yet, all too infrequently do we read about a DLC pack that really intrigues. Minecraft Xbox 360's updates probably qualify, but they're a special case - we're basically reliving the idiosyncratic process of Minecraft PC's development.
Assassin's Creed 3 raised eyebrows recently with the Tyranny of King Washington, an alternative history campaign which spans three DLC packs, but one glimpse at the game's confusing morass of special edition unlocks and pre-order incentives is enough to send those same eyebrows plummeting. The truth is, "innovation" in DLC circles is mostly to do with how DLC is made available, not what DLC actually consists of. Even if you disagree with the specifics, the ideas below should get you thinking about how digital distribution could be exploited to really energise players.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
XCOM: Enemy Unknown's big thrill is right in the title. You don't know what's out there. You don't know what it's capable of, what it's armed with, what it's hiding behind, and most importantly of all, whether it's aware of your presence. Sneaky downloadable updating could support this marvellously, given a certain amount of faith on the part of participating players and some technical license from Microsoft.
Let's say that rather than buying new maps, units and gizmos individually, with full knowledge of what you're paying for, we all bought into a nebulous "XCOM Escalation Pass". The Pass guarantees about six months of additional content, but exactly what that content amounts to and when it'll arrive is up to guesswork. Load the game, and it'll surreptitiously check 2K's servers for new material while you go about the everyday business of hunting, trapping and slaughtering beasts from outer space.
Any new bits are then downloaded in the background and added to the world in play. You won't feel a thing. Not till you send your B-team out on an otherwise routine abduction mission, and discover that all the defending Sectoids have upgraded to Active Camo. Or that there's now an actual UFO hovering over the battlefield, bombarding the furnishings. Or that the Outsiders have enlisted the services of some Special Infected from the Left 4 Dead games. Not quite so cut and dried, right?