Expansion Pack

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Expansion packs are extra material produced for an existing game, either by the game's original production company or by a third party, that generally provide a new story line, more levels or maps and occasionally new items, equipment or units. These aren't just for video games either - Board Games, and Euro Games in particular, are noted for having a lot of them.

It is said that back in the 1970s, IBM would sell a low-end version of its original 360 mainframe; if the customer ordered a higher-end version (which cost several thousand dollars for the upgrade), IBM would send out a technician who simply used a clipper to sever one wire.

What makes an expansion different from a new game or a stand-alone game or even a sequel is that you need to have the original game installed to play it. The expansion contains more data for the game and does not have a game engine of its own, and it usually doesn't come with the original game. Although recently,[when?] a few companies have been releasing standalone expansion packs, which do in fact come with the engine, and allow the gamer to play with the extra content by itself, but having the original game too may have benefits (such as an Old Save Bonus allowing you to pick up with your endgame character, and avoid bag-spillage).

There has been some recent[when?] controversy over the fact that additional purchasable content on some recent games actually consists of unlocking material which shipped with the original game. While this practice is not exactly fraudulent, and has been employed for productivity software for years (for a recent and commonplace example, Windows Vista's five or so versions are all included on every disc, and the license key determines which features will be enabled), some gamers have felt cheated by being compelled to pay extra for content they already physically possessed.

Nearly every RTS game ever made had at least one expansion pack. While the older games usually just added bonus missions that were more challenging than the original game, it has become custom to expand the different factions unit lineup as well as frequently adding new factions to the game altogether.

MMORPGs used to rely heavily on this model and the biggest titles with physical editions still do, either as the sole method of distribution or as an option for those with poor internet connections. Free to Play titles deliver most of their content updates online but may occasionally bundle several patches together on a disc in an example of this trope.

Not to be confused with third party self-titled add-ons, which usually just contain maps made with the games map editor (and usually not very advanced either). Third-party add-ons are often (though not always) produced by a game's fan community, and can take the form of extended (or heavily-revised) storylines, additional missions, new weapons, or a 'Total Conversion', which is a time-intensive process that (as the name suggests) converts the game into something else entirely, and usually involves a graphical overhaul, a new soundtrack, and even (in the most extreme cases) new model design and programming extensions (some of which push the game's original engine far beyond its design limitations).

Related to Downloadable Content, which are basically downloaded Expansion Packs. See Mission Pack Sequel for when developers try to pass these off as actual games. See also Sourcebook for the Tabletop RPG equivalent.

Examples of Expansion Pack include:
  • Blizzard Entertainment loves these. But not as much as they love using these to play the Bait and Switch by effectively reversing the ending of the game they're for. (Unhappy endings become happy ones and vice versa.)
  • Half Life had a number of successful expansions, including Blue Shift and Opposing Force, and the sequel continues this tradition proudly with the Half-Life 2 Episodes series.
    • What Valve is doing with Half-Life episodes is an original usage of expansion packs; preemptive piecemeal publishing of what'll essentially be Half-Life 3.
    • Thanks to Steam, the Episodes also blur the definition between expansion pack and sequel: if Half-Life 2 was installed, the Episodes would re-use assets and engine components from that game, acting like expansions; but if it wasn't, they would add the necessary files themselves.
    • Meanwhile, Blue Shift inverted the concept: it was packaged with its own copy of the engine and was in fact a full standalone install, but marketed as an expansion pack rather than a sequel due to its short length and unaltered gameplay.
    • A third party, We Create Stuff released (before Portal came out) a flash-based 2D game based on the idea of Valve's 3d Puzzle game. We Create Stuff then released a complete replacement map pack for Portal that can best be (charitably) described as exceedingly Nintendo Hard.
  • Civilization IV has 3 expansion packs- Warlords, Beyond the Sword and Colonization.
    • However, Colonization is so different as to virtually be another game, a remake of the old Sid Meier's Colonization from the early 90s using the Civ IV engine. It's kind of a weird mix of expansion and separate game.
  • Civilization V also now has a new expansion pack announced called Gods and Kings
  • Crysis: Crysis Warhead.
  • The Sims is worldwide known for being an Expansion Pack Cash Cow Franchise, the first one having seven expansion packs (all now conveniently packed with the original for the price of one game, spiting everyone who actually bought them separately) and the sequel having 8 expansion packs containing new game features and content, and 8 lower priced 'stuff packs' containing content only. The new game, Sims 3, already has 4 expansion packs and 3 Stuff packs.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has two expansion packs, Tribunal and Bloodmoon, adding additional areas and quests, and possibilities (as the title hints, the character can become a lycanthrope). However, they also update the game .exe to include additional functions not present in patches for the original game, introducing unfortunate dependencies on the expansion packs for the vast majority of the enormous selection of Morrowind mods created by the community.
  • City of Villains is an expansion pack and Gaiden Game for City of Heroes. It is also an example of an expansion that is fully built into the core game, and has to be unlocked by paying the complete price of an additional game. Furthermore, as of the end of 2006 City of Heroes has at least two smaller "bonus" packages that add extra powers and costume options to the game which can only be activated via separate purchases from NCSoft. (As of 2008, the games are no longer separate and everyone who had only one can access the other for no extra cost. 2010's Praetorean story arcs will be another stand-alone gaiden game that can be an expansion pack for City of Heroes / Villains.)
  • Almost all MMORPGs that remain popular long enough will release numerous expansion packs. Ultima Online and EverQuest both have over a dozen expansions apiece.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has had several small downloadable content packs, and a full sized expansion.
    • Said downloadable content packs were later made into another full sized expansion.
  • Every Collectible Card Game in existence. Magic: The Gathering averages one expansion every 4 months or so.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh can top that with a new set every three months. As well as all the special packs.
  • Also popular with board games. Settlers of Catan has several expansion packs as does Alhambra. Sometimes these are combined into one set as a 'big box' release.
  • Galaxy Angel Eternal Lovers contained a Chitose story path for Galaxy Angel Moonlit Lovers.
  • Originally designed as Baldur's Gate III, Baldur's Gate II's expansion Throne of Bhaal was the climax to the Bhaalspawn story. (The game that would later be developed as "Baldur's Gate 3", The Black Hound, had nothing to do with the BG series' Bhaalspawn saga. It was only named that due to Interplay lacking the rights to make D&D games that weren't called "Baldur's Gate", the same reason for Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. Throne Of Bhaal was more a "proper" expansion pack, as compared to Tales Of The Sword Coast, which added a few dungeons (though they were big ones!), spells, and items and raised the level cap without actually impacting the main story.
  • Neverwinter Nights had two clear expansions, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark, each of which introduced a new campaign, several new spells, weapons, feats, and prestige classes. Hordes of the Underdark also increased the level cap, introducing an epic tier to the game. In a strange twist, canonically the PC of Hordes of the Underdark is the same as Shadows of Undrentide, but NOT the same as the one in the original campaign.
    • Neverwinter Nights 2 ended up with two expansion packs too: Mask of the Betrayer, which is considered by many to be the Spiritual Successor to Planescape: Torment as well as Storm of Zehir which attempted to replicate the dungeon crawling style of the Icewind Dale games.
      • Talking of Icewind Dale, the original game received an extremely short expansion pack, Heart of Winter.
      • The game designers acknowledged the shortness of Heart of Winter and released a free downloadable second expansion pack called Trials of the Luremaster. You need your copy of Heart of Winter installed to play it however.
  • One game with tons of expansion packs is Ultima VII: The Black Gate (commonly regarded as the best in the series), which didn't just get Forge of Virtue and Serpent Isle, the SI expansion pack even got its own expansion pack in the form of The Silver Seed. Due to clumsy marketing and a rushed release (ordered by corporate suits), The Silver Seed was shipped partially unfinished; while the expansion is in 'winnable', numerous unchecked plot holes, dangling story threads, and even one or two only partially-designed-but-abandoned-midway sidequests mar what is arguably one of Origin's finest works.
  • Probably the ultimate expansion pack would be Sonic & Knuckles, a cartridge game that literally attached to the previous title, Sonic the Hedgehog 3! This was because they were originally meant to be one game, but it was split in half to meet the deadline and a lock-on system was devised to allow the games to be played on their own or combined into one game. The feature also allowed them to make it an expansion for Sonic 2 as well, allowing players to be Knuckles.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War's only true expansion pack, Winter Assault made videogame history as the first RTS expansion since Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge to introduce a new race or faction to play (The Imperial Guard), as well as the first where the new faction was playable in the game's campaign mode. Dark Crusade also introduced two additional races (The Tau and the Necron), but that was an example of that rarer beast, the Standalone Expansion Pack.
    • Dawn of War also got a third expansion pack, Soulstorm which added Dark Eldar and the Sisters of Battle.
      • As did The Titans expansion for Age of Mythology.
      • And Rise Of Nations had an expansion which introduced SIX new nations (races). I'm fairly certain it was before Dawn Of War. After Mythology though.
    • Dawn of War II had two standalone expansion packs: "Chaos Rising", which introduced Chaos, and "Retribution", which introduced the Imperial Guard.
  • In reality, the separate chapters of the Guild Wars saga aren't expansion packs, but entirely separate games. They may look like expansions, walk like expansions, but it's possible to independently own and play any of the three games separately. Naturally, there are benefits for combining the three products as a single game.
    • Those would be Mission Pack Sequels.
    • However, the Eye of the North is a true expansion, in that it needs at least one of Prophecies, Factions, or Nightfall to be attached to. Given its supposed intention to act as a bridge between the current Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, we could be looking at what may be the industry's first pre-expansion pack.
    • Factions and Nightfall aren't Mission Pack Sequels as each game in the series does add many new features, graphical upgrades, etc., which aren't in the original (Prophecies). Some of the new features and upgrades did get passed down to the original, however, many more features didn't, and most new features introduced after that were added to all three games simultaneously.
  • URU, the MMO spin-off of Myst, received a gratis expansion due to its general failure as an MMO. To D'ni gave non-beta players offline access to previously online-only areas. Path of the Shell was sold later. They rendered an installation incompatible with any online play, which had been shut down, until the GameTap-funded revival in 2007.
  • Tribes of the East, the second and last add-on to Heroes of Might and Magic 5, is an example of a stand-alone expansion. Mostly so because the main game's flaws, which mostly were addressed in this expansion, caused mediocre sales. However, there is no real bonus to owning the main game and the expansion, since all features except the campaigns are contained in TotE.
  • Final Doom provided two full level sets in one package, TNT: Evilution and The Plutonia Experiment, the first of which was originally intended to be a freeware Game Mod until id Software struck a publishing deal with its development team.
  • Persona 3 proved so popular that an expansion game, Persona 3: FES was released. This contains the original game but with an extra difficulty level (Hard), new calendar events and additional Personae to summon. The real meat of the expansion comes in the form of an extra 20-30hr scenario which serves as a direct sequel to the events of the main game. All this plus the fact that it retails for less than the original means that there's little to no reason to purchase the original anymore.
  • Syndicate has a single expansion pack called American Revolt. It is notably quite difficult.
  • Total Annihilation had two expansion packs, The Core Contingency and Battle Tactics. The first was a full expansion complete with campaign and dozens of new units, the second a map and mission pack.
  • Unreal had the expansion pack Return to Na Pali.
  • The Xtreme Legends releases for the Warriors games. As consoles are generally not expansion-friendly, they've traditionally also worked as stand-alone games, but there's really nothing worth playing if you do use them as such... and with the advent of DLC, Koei seems to be moving towards just making them straight expansions.
  • Magical Battle Arena has two. The first is a free, downloadable one that would add the characters Lina, Naga, and Kukuri, as well as the stages Golem Fight Grounds and Nekojima Valley. The second is Lyrical Pack, which adds Hayate, Vita, and StrikerS Nanoha, the Desert Planet and Virtual City Training Ground stages, Mission Mode, Survival Mode, and various character and gameplay tweaks.
  • Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 for the Playstation actually required you to have the original GTA disc to boot it. That is, it wasn't standalone like a Mission Pack Sequel.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, two downloadable expansion packs that were originally Xbox 360 exclusive, but were released for the Play Station 3 and PC a few months later.
  • Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil.
  • The Command & Conquer series considers them obligatory. The first few (The Covert Operations for the first game, and Counterstrike for Red Alert) just added new missions, but from The Aftermath for Red Alert, they always added new units as well.
    • Tiberian Sun: Firestorm, while adding little to the core gameplay, had a new internet mode that allowed players to join either the GDI or Nod in an attempt to conquer the world.
    • As mentioned above, Red Alert 2 had Yuri's Revenge, which added a third faction lead by the titular Soviet psychic, as well as adding new units to the existing factions (the Soviets in particular underwent significant changes, what with Yuri taking all their psychic tech with him).
  • Wing Commander has expansion packs for both the first two "main line" games and for the Spin-Off Privateer. Once the series went to FMV, however, it became impractical. And, no, Wing Commander Secret Ops is not an Expansion Pack, no matter how much some fans wish to paint it as such.
    • The SNES version of Secret Missions, the first WC1 add-on, was a fully separate game that didn't need the original, but that was a function of cartridge-based games for which the method described in the Sonic & Knuckles example, above, was impractical on the basis of costs (WC at the time not being the cash cow that was the Sonic series).
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts will be getting one soon, called "LOG's Lost Challenges". Feast your eyes on the logo. FEAST! [dead link]
  • Rollercoaster Tycoon. All the three parts have had two expasion packs each.
  • The Movies had one expansion pack, Stunts & Effects.
  • Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions was, in America and Japan, simply a (literal) mission pack spinoff to the original MGS. Unfortunately, for reasons known only to themselves, they added a disc-check onto the European versions, requiring players to own Metal Gear Solid for the game to boot. Doubly-unfortunately, the disc check doesn't work on certain PlayStation 2 models and most Play Station 3 ones, rendering European copies of Special Missions unplayable on those consoles.
  • Touhou Gaiden Game Scarlet Weather Rhapsody has Hisoutensoku as an expansion of sorts. It can be played alone, but to get most of the characters you'll need SWR.
    • Touhou fangame Touhou Pocket Wars Evolution has one in the form of Touhou Pocket Wars Evolution Plus. The expansion adds a follow-up story based around and playable versions of the cast of the 12th Touhou game.
  • The arcade racing game Daytona USA 2 got an update kit called Daytona USA 2: Power Edition. It changed the announcer's voice, replaced the really nice looking Beginner track with a more generic and NASCAR-like Beginner track, added a new Challenge track that had you go through all 3 courses, and added the Hornet car from the original Daytona USA.
  • Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2 got a "Ver. B" patch that allowed anyone, not just players who clear Story Mode without losing a single stage, to achieve the 815 HP setting by driving 5,000 kilometers. Cue outcry from players skilled enough to be undefeated in Story Mode.
  • Owners of Tetris the Grand Master 2 - The Absolute got a free update kit called Tetris: The Grand Master 2 - The Absolute PLUS (commonly referred to as "TAP"), which added some new modes: TGM+ (garbage rises from the bottom if you're clearing lines too slowly), T.A. Death (pieces drop instantly and you must survive for 500 levels, or 999 if you clear the first 500 fast enough), and allowed players to play Doubles mode on one credit. In addition, the "Grand Master" rank in Master mode is more difficult to obtain, as if it wasn't already hard enough.
  • Blue Dragon had a pack of special items released for download, then an entire new Bonus Dungeon, then a New Game+ mode that made the game super difficult.
  • Oh No! More Lemmings was originally conceived as an Expansion Pack for Lemmings, though was released as a standalone game. It is abundantly evident in the learning curve, which is a lot steeper in Oh No! More Lemmings, where there's one category of stupidly easy levels that were clearly added in as an afterthought, followed by four categories of Nintendo Really Fucking Hard madness...
  • Quake had Dissolution of Eternity, by Rogue, and Scourge of Armagon by Hipnotic. Quake II had The Reckoning, by Xatrix, and Ground Zero by Rogue. And Quake III Arena had Team Arena by Id themselves.
  • Tekken, in arcades. Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, and Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion.
  • Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening picks up the story where Origins left off, with you in charge of rebuilding the Grey Wardens in Ferelden. You have the option of importing an Origins character sans any DLC content save the "Return to Ostagar" stuff (since the other DLC content is incompatible for some reason), or starting fresh with a level 18 Orlesian Grey Warden Commander. There are enough new features to call it an expansion (new talents, higher level cap, new companions), but not enough to call it a sequel (it's still basically the same game).
  • Real Life version: At Disney Theme Parks, Toon Town was added to Disney World, with New Orleans Square, Bear County, and California Adventure to Disneyland.
  • Fallout 3. Mothership Zeta, The Pitt, Operation Anchorage, and Point Lookout all count, but the most important DLC is Broken Steel, which completely changes the ending of the vanilla game so as to allow you to play after beating it, as well as adding some new sidequests and increasing the level Cap.
  • Descent II: The Vertigo Series and Descent 3: Mercenaries.
  • Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, built on the Age of Empires II engine, had Clone Campaigns as its Expansion Pack. This included two new campaigns, two new factions (Confederacy and Galactic Republic), as well as new techs and units.
  • Massive Entertainment's first RTS Ground Control received an expansion pack, furthering the adventures of major Parker. A few faction tweaks and some additional options for units added a bit more depth.
  • Fasa's Mechwarrior 2 received several: Ghost Bear's Legacy and a multiplayer expansion called the 8 player pack.
    • Might be mistaken for an expansion: Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries was a standalone game.
    • Mechwarrior 3 got one as well, a bit harder to find though. Pirates Moon it was called.
    • Pretty much all incarnations of Mechwarrior 4 received an expansion:
      • Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance was followed up by Mechwarrior 4: Black Knight, which continued the story from a different view point. Pretty much Darker and Edgier, as it picked up after the worst possible ending. Pretty much Battletechs/MechWarriors m.o.
      • Another expansion for Mechwarrior 4: the Clan 'Mech and Inner Sphere 'Mech packs. Adding additional Battlemechs and weapon system to the games. Only usable in Multiplay however.
      • While not an expansion per se, Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries plays around the same timeframe as Vengeance and Black Knight. Furthermore, the 'Mech pack expansions could be installed for Mercenaries as well.
    • Same universe, different genre: the first Mech Commander game received a gold upgrade. Which included different difficulty settings (and boy did the vanilla game need one!) and a whole new multi-mission campaign!
  • How Commander Pavel Chekhov ever became a full fledged commander is beyond many. Apparently he lost a whole disc with missions for Interplay's Starfleet Academy. Luckily these were found and added in an expansion called... Chekhov's Lost Mission. It did not add much to the core game, aside from 5 new missions with brutal difficulty, tying up a few dropped story lines.
  • Starfleet Command series gained a massive one for the second incarnation, adding new factions like the Orion Syndicate. Full title: Star Trek: Starfleet Command II: Orion Pirates
  • Silent Hunter IV has the expansion U-Boat Missions, that allows you to command a German submarine with base on the Japanese-occupied South Eastern Asia.
  • Monolith Productions has a bit of history with both third-party and self-made expansions for their games, particularly first-person shooters:
    • Blood first had the third-party "Cryptic Passage" which just added new levels. Shortly afterward came the Monolith-produced "Post Mortem", which included new weapons, enemies, and various changes and bugfixes.
    • First Encounter Assault Recon had just third-party expansions, "Perseus Mandate" and "Extraction Point", which continued/complimented the base game's story, as well as adding new enemies and weapons in the case of "Perseus Mandate". Alienversus Predator 2 had "Primal Hunt", a prequel to the base game. There were also a pair of third-party expansions for Shogo: Mobile Armor Division that never saw release.
    • Blood II and Tron Two Point Oh each had a single first-party expansion: "The Nightmare Levels" and "Killer Ap", respectively.
  • Xanadu Scenario II: The Resurrection of Dragon, an expansion to Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu which included some of Yuzo Koshiro's earliest video game music.
  • Sorcerian had a multitude of scenario disks released in Japan by Nihon Falcom and various third parties.
  • Rainbow Six had a follow up in the form of Eagle Watch, a series of depressingly tough levels. It's sequel contained Urban Operations that included mod support (such as replacing Rainbow with SEAL Team Six and several 9/11 fan add ons), Covert Operations that includes a counterterror encyclopedia and officer test (in story one of the members of Rainbow was moving from an enlisted soldier to intel), and Black Thorn, which interestingly changed an airport level to a bus terminal after September 11, and the developers released the map for modders to play around with. The third game was followed up by Athena Sword and a Korean only expansion pack that is free to download. The XBOX and PlayStation 2 conversions were similar in having stand alone expansions to the main game, some deviating from the PC versions.
  • Rance Quest has the Magnum expansion pack which fixes the Obvious Beta issue of the original and 100% more text.