The most common type of downloadable content is extra maps or levels that extend the gameplay of the original game. For example, Activision provides Modern Warfare players with new downloadable levels every few months. The company also releases new songs for its Guitar Hero series on a regular basis. By downloading new levels or songs, players can continue to enjoy new challenges after completing the original game.
Another popular type of DLC includes extra items that can be incorporated into the game. For instance, Capcom allows Street Fighter IV players to download custom outfits for their favorite players. Microsoft provides additional vehicles that can be downloaded by Forza Motorsport 3 users. Epic Games provides Gears of War 3 players with new characters that can be added to the game.
While some downloadable content is offered for free, most DLC must be purchased. The cost of downloadable content packs is typically much less than the price the original game, though multiple DLC purchases may surpass the cost of the game itself. Therefore, DLC has become a common way for software developers to generate a continual long-term revenue stream from video games.
NOTE: While DLC first became popular on gaming consoles, it soon progressed to PC games, and then to mobile devices. Now, many mobile apps offer "in-app purchases," which is synonymous with DLC.
Updated: September 6, 2012