One of the big disconnects for people who play games on multiple platforms are the different expectations for post-release support. On the PC, that stuff was almost always free. Remember all those downloadable units for Total Annihilation? Or how about Epic's approach to free content, which just recently spawned a new "Titan" pack for Unreal Tournament 3? And if you were paying to expand a PC game, you were expanding it, usually by going out to purchase a retail, boxed expansion that added a new campaign, a handful of new maps or missions, and so on.
That was one of the things that rubbed me the wrong way with the Xbox Live Marketplace first came along. With its promise of microtransactions and easy, on-console access, things like map packs were a couple of button presses away. Along with it came stuff like the Oblivion horse armor. And EA's experiments into pay-per-cheats that felt like a total slap in the face when they first hit.
But hey, you can always count on the PC to keep on getting free updates, right? Well, not really. With more and more multiplatform games coming along, the notion that PC players would pay ten bucks less and get free updates that console owners had to buy always made it look like someone was getting screwed. Either the PC players got it for free, or they didn't get it at all, simply because the expectations of the players were totally different. Plus no one had any easy way to sell and distribute this stuff.
Today, selling that content just got easier. Valve announced its DLC support today and added the "deleted scenes" content for The Maw, Twisted Pixel's cute little action game. The levels run $1.25 a pop, and there are currently two levels in place. Valve states that its implementation of this add-on content will allow it to work with retail, as well as Steam versions of games and versions purchased "via other digital outlets."
While this isn't the first foray into getting PC users to pay for add-on content, Steam's entry into this market feels like one of those "moments" to me. This is the thing that's going to make every other digital distribution service implement similar offerings, if they don't have one in place already. This is the thing that's going to make sure that the next time you buy a Call of Duty game on the PC, the maps they release down the line won't be free due to some kind of NVIDIA sponsorship.
I expect there will be a lot of hand-wringing and angry forumizing to come as more, higher-profile games begin selling add-on content on the PC. But, really, did you expect this to go any other way? The weird thing is that I've been paying for map packs and costumes and other little stuff for so long now on consoles that I'm sort of happy to see signs of the PC catching up in this department, if only to ensure that all players at least get access to the same content, regardless of their choice in platform.