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Downloadable Content (DLC)

Downloadable Content (DLC) – additional content for a video game that is available digitally.  DLC may be available prior to the release of the game, as well as after the release of a game. DLC is typically provided by the game publisher, and may or may not have an associated additional cost.  Video game publishers have used DLC as an additional revenue stream, supplementing the revenue stream provided by sales of the game[1].  DLC can comprise cosmetics (e.g., Skins), new characters, new tools, new levels, and new game modes.  In some cases, DLC is bundled as part of a “Season Pass” for a game[2].  An example of DLC in the game Fortnite is a Skin.

DLC has become a key part of the video game industry in the last twenty (20) years.  The Sega Dreamcast (1999) and the Microsoft Xbox (2001) were the first console systems to allow for DLC, but it was mostly free updates to games sold in disc format[3].  The Microsoft Xbox 360 (2005) was the first console to truly embrace DLC, with the establishment of the “Xbox Live Marketplace” service[4].  Sony followed suit with the release of the PlayStation 3 (2006), establishing the “PlayStation Store” where users could pay for and download DLC.  The Nintendo 3DS (2011) saw Nintendo establish the “Nintendo eShop” as its exclusive online marketplace for DLC[5].

Music video games, such as Guitar Hero (2005) and Rock Band (2007), took significant advantage of DLC as a means of offering new songs to be played in-game[6].  These games were some of the first to popularize “microtransactions” – the concept of purchasing virtual goods with micropayments within a game[7].  In 2010, the sale of DLC made up around twenty percent (20%) of video games sales[8].  In 2023, estimates are that more than eighty-five (85%) of total video game industry revenue comes from free-to-play games, indicating that DLC now accounts for the large measure of industry revenue[9].

DLC often comes ‘prepackaged’ with a game.  As one example, the “75th Anniversary Edition” of NBA 2K22 sold for USD 100.00 and came with the game, as well as various DLC including 100,000 in Virtual Currency (“VC”), 10,000 MyTeam points (which can be used to obtain player cards and card packs), 22 MyTeam card packs, as well as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant virtual cards[10]. Without the DLC, NBA 2K22 retailed for about USD 70.00 on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.  So, DLC in that case accounted for about USD 30.00 per game in additional revenue.

Where a game on disc may allow its license sold or traded, DLC is generally locked to a specific user’s account, and does not come with the ability to transfer that license to another user[11].


[1] See “From Gachapon To Video Game DLC: A Brief History of Loot Boxes, Gambling and the Law,” Darius C. Gambino, Saul Ewing LLP, Sept. 28, 2022, pp. 2, 9-10 (

[2] As an example, the “Season Pass” within Fortnite is called the “Battle Pass.”  Purchasing the “Battle Pass” typically entitles the player to unique skins, unique weapons, unique vehicles and unique character and vehicle effects.

[3] See “Downloadable Content” Wiki (

[4] Id.

[5] Id.


[6] IdGuitar Hero II (2006) was the first in the franchise to offer additional songs for download as DLC.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] “Video Game Industry Statistics, Trends and Data In 2023,” WePC, May 10, 2023 (

[10] See FN 1, supra, pp. 9-10.


[11] See FN 3, supra.


  • Darius C. Gambino

    Darius Gambino has over 20 years of experience helping clients protect their intellectual property in the United States and abroad. Clients in industries ranging from technology and manufacturing to consumer goods and professional services rely on Darius to represent them in high stakes patent, trademark and copyright litigation. Darius also assists clients with managing global patent and trademark portfolios, and counsels clients on enforcement strategies. He also represents clients in connection with intellectual property licensing, trade secret disputes, and corporate diligence investigations. Image “Lawyers with Game” logo Darius is the creator and host of the firm’s “Lawyers With Game” video series on YouTube, where he and others from the firm’s Video Gaming and Esports Group discuss current legal issues in the gaming and esports industries. Show less Darius’ patent practice focuses mainly on the electrical and mechanical engineering disciplines. He has worked in various fields including computer software and hardware, consumer goods, medical devices, semiconductor manufacturing, telecommunications, sensors, computer memories and conditional access technologies. Before earning his law degree, Darius was a patent examiner for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Darius is a frequent speaker, and has written extensively, on the topics of design patents and trade dress. Darius is the author of “Trade Dress: Evolution, Strategy and Practice” (2015) from LexisNexis.

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