After a given AAA goes gold, two things typically happen. First, some of the team get transferred onto new projects nearly immediately. DLC doesn’t require a full development team to build, so it makes sense that a large number of devs are reassigned to new projects. It keeps them productive. Second, the remaining devs start work on DLC for the newly-launched game.
Most AAA games that have DLC planned do so for a year after launch. This is often delivered at a cadence of three months or so for each content drop. As the audience eventually dwindles due to normal factors (players stop playing for life reasons, new games come out and draw players away, etc.), an increasing number of the remaining devs get transferred off to other projects as the DLC is completed and shipped off.
This is, of course, assuming that everything goes according to plan. There’s an expected number of sales, an expected number of players who continue to engage with the game, and so on. If the numbers are much lower than expected, the executives in charge of the money may pull the plug early. If the numbers are higher than expected, they may allocate more resources (developers) to additional game content. Subsequent years of DLC development can get the green light if the game continues to retain lots of players.
[Join us on Discord] and/or [Support us on Patreon]
Got a burning question you want answered?
- Short questions: Ask a Game Dev on Twitter
- Long questions: Ask a Game Dev on Tumblr
- Frequent Questions: The FAQ