What Is DLC in Gaming?

Updated · Jun 16, 2022

Are you getting lost in the gaming world's lingo? RPG, DPS, DLC, there seems to be a three-letter abbreviation for anything.

Worry not; we're here to clarify, at least, the meaning of DLC for games.

We'll go over the term's definition, as well as the different types of content you can find behind that (pay)wall.

What Does DLC Mean?

DLC stands for "downloadable content."

It's a digital file that can be downloaded and added to a video game.

It may include new levels, characters, weapons, vehicles, or other features that expand the game and increase its replayability value.

However, you need to own the original game in order to access a DLC.

Some popular examples include "Borderlands 2" with its 47 DLCs and "Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion," with "The Shivering Isles" DLC, considered by many the best of the franchise's productions.

What Is DLC in Gaming Used For?

While some DLC is free, most often, you have to purchase it.

That provides a way for video game publishers to monetize free-to-play titles or earn more from already sold games.

DLC can be made for virtually any game, but it's commonly offered for online titles, such as "Fortnite" and "Minecraft."

Some single-players also have downloadable content, but that's more common for AAA productions like "The Witcher 3." In the case of this open-world RPG, there is both paid and free additional content.

Many people consider DLC to be a necessary evil, as it can prolong the life of a game, but it also adds to the cost.

In recent years, there has been a trend toward offering more DLC for free in order to entice gamers to continue playing.

Mostly, it's very well-received, particularly if it offers significant and engaging new content.

Types of DLC in Video Games

DLC is available for both single-player and multiplayer games, and it's either free or paid.

In recent years, DLC has become increasingly popular, with many titles offering a variety of post-release content for players to enjoy.

Let's take a look at some of the most common types of video game DLC.

  • Story expansions: As the name suggests, story expansions add new chapters or missions to the existing campaigns. This type of DLC is usually reserved for single-players, and it's a great way to extend the life of a game you've already finished.
  • Character packs: That's how playable characters are added, giving players access to new abilities and powers. Such a DLC pack is often a part of fighting games or action RPGs, intended to mix up the gameplay experience.
  • Weapon packs: Adding new weapons gives you more options for taking down your enemies. First-person shooters and action games provide these so they can give you a leg up on the competition.
  • Vehicle packs: Including new types of vehicles in the game allows you to explore the world in new ways. Racing or open-world titles offer these to add more variety to the gameplay.
  • Map packs: That's a DLC content usually for multiplayer titles, ensuring you have more places to explore and fight to keep you engaged.
  • Cosmetics: These items change how your character looks but don't affect gameplay. Non-combat companions, which are cute but have no practical value, are also frequently added.
  • Games with customizable characters feature these, and they serve to show off your style.
  • In-game currency: This type of downloadable content in a game is generally for free-to-play titles so that they can support their development. You can purchase new items, cosmetics, or other in-game content with this currency.
  • Boost and cheats: These with extra resources or abilities will give you an advantage over other players.

They're typically part of competitive games and sometimes can save you the trouble of completing certain quests to acquire them.

DLC vs. Expansion

DLC is a broad term for anything additional to a game after its release, whether it's an expansion or microtransactions. 

However, DLC is often used to designate extra content whose scope lies between expansions and microtransactions. 

As we mentioned, the meaning of DLC for games can be anything from adding a new character skin to a whole new campaign.

These DLC games are usually offered periodically after the original one's release, and they can sometimes be purchased bundled together.

Expansions are much larger in scope, and they add significant new content. That could be a new campaign, a multiplayer mode, or even a whole game. 

They usually come out much later than DLC packs and are sold separately.

To Wrap Up

DLC has become an increasingly common feature intended to extend the life of your favorite games.

Now that you know what DLC in gaming is, you can try out any type, from story expansions to character packs to experience a well-known game in a unique way.

When deciding whether to purchase DLC or an expansion, it's essential to consider the scope of the content and how much value it'll add.

No matter what you choose, DLCs are created to keep your favorite games fresh and exciting.

Marina Stanisheva
Marina Stanisheva

With charmingly infectious enthusiasm, Marina is always thrilled by forthcoming challenges. Thanks to her knack for gathering useful (and not so much) information, she is here to get you any answer you need.