Downloadable Content (DLC) is a big part of Idolm@ster fandom, with Namco releasing new outfits, songs, costumes, and other contents once a month. None of the items give your girls an unfair advantage stats-wise, but since they cost real money they do tend to be some of the better items in the game. You can compare the DLC versus the regular items on the individual games' stats pages. Regardless of the stats, many of the items/songs are just cool and thus have sold very well in Japan.
If you have a PS3, you can even buy Hatsune Miku, Miku Append, and 876 girls (Ai Hidaka, Eri Mizutani, Ryo Akizuki). Those idols are available in S4U! (Stage for you) or appear as rivals in the special festival.
DLC Format of The Idolm@sterEdit
The Idolm@ster's downloadable content (DLC) comes in the form of collections called "catalogs" which are free to download. It's worth downloading them even if you don't plan to buy any DLC later on, so that you can see the DLC items in music videos made by others.
Each catalog file is a hundred or so MB large because it contains a whole group of new in-game items within one package. This is an interesting idea because it allows variety in the methods required to obtain DLC items (pay, unlockable gift) and makes the licensing process very fast for each new item after the initial download. What costs money (and a lot of it) is buying the licenses to use each individual piece of content within the catalog.
Once you have downloaded a catalog, it will appear in the 765 Shop that is accessed from the iM@S main menu. You may then choose to buy items through either the Xbox Live Marketplace interface, which is item-title only, or the in-game 765 Shop interface, which includes photos and information about each item. Once you purchase an item it will unlock instantly since you already have the data downloaded.
Catalogs are released once a month for about a year after the release of a game.
Accessing Japanese DLCEdit
No matter which Idolm@ster game you have, there are a few things you're going to need in order to access the DLC:
- A Japanese-region gamertag (X360) or PSN account (PS3, PSP)
- Japanese-region MS Points or PSN yen, in pre-paid cards
- (Optional) a pre-paid XBL Gold Membership card (any region)
The Japanese-region account is simply because different content is posted on different region Xbox Live Marketplace (or PSN) stores. You need to access the Japanese marketplace in order to see all the Idolm@ster catalogs. The Japanese account works just like the US account you're used to in all respects that aren't financial-related.
You can download Idolm@ster catalogs free of charge, but in order to use any items in them within your game you'll have to buy licenses. You cannot attach a US credit card to a Japanese account (it will be rejected), so you must purchase prepaid points cards to put money in your account. These must be Japanese-region points or yen cards, which you will have to import from PlayAsia or your other favorite online import shop. US-region points cards will not work, sadly.
For the Xbox360, you can choose to make your account Silver or Gold, whichever you like. Gold isn't required for DLC reasons, but you may want it in order to play online. The Japanese accounts access the same multiplayer servers as US accounts, so you can use it as a regular account if you want to. It's just up to you. If you do choose to make it Gold you'll need a pre-paid card again, but at least this one you can buy from your local store. Any region Gold card works (go figure).
Creating a Japanese XBL or PSN AccountEdit
The basic steps to creating a Japanese account are as follows:
- Make a new Hotmail e-mail address, selecting Japan as your region
- For the address, put in a real Japanese location (city and post code must match)
- Use that e-mail address to sign up for Xbox Live, the PSN, or both
The hardest part is finding a physical address that the Hotmail system will accept. Scout around on the internet for addresses you can use. Some more detailed account creation tutorials are out there that provide samples for your use.
Xbox 360 Licensing MethodEdit
The way the Xbox360 licenses DLC works really well for having multiple accounts for different regions while keeping all your achivements in one place. It's quite convenient. When you buy a piece of X360 DLC you get two things:
- A Console Key (any gamertag can use the DLC on the console it was first downloaded to, online or offline).
- A Gamertag Key (the gamertag that bought it can use the DLC on any console by signing in to Xbox Live).
A single Xbox hard drive can store keys for multiple consoles, so you can easily swap your drive back and forth between a US and Japanese console if you want. All the accessories are directly compatible with no region issues. This also means that you can pick one account - either the US one or the Japanese one - to store all achievements and gameplay history under if you want to keep it all together.
A Real-Life ExampleEdit
- Wife's XBL Account is US-region. Plays both US and JP games under this account.
- All US-game DLC is bought with the US account, and only downloaded on the US console.
- Husband's XBL Account is Japanese-region. Plays both US and JP games under this account.
- All JP-game DLC is bought with the JP account, and only downloaded on the JP console.
- Each Xbox360 has its own hard drive.
- Gamertags are stored on thumbdrives and just plugged into whichever console is needed.
Result: either person can play all games and DLC no matter which account bought it. Makes for nice sharing within the family.
Just remember to never mix regions -- never download Japanese marketplace DLC while plugged into the US console. You'd end up with a US Console Key rather than a Japanese one, and end up locking your US account out of using the DLC on the Japanese console (the JP account would still work in that case because of the Gamertag Key, but only when Xbox Live was up). That sounds complicated but if you think of how the Console Key and Gamertag Key work together, it will make sense to you. Always download the right region DLC onto the right console, and this system works like a charm.
Feel free to take this information and this example and set up a system that will work for you.
PlayStation Licensing MethodEdit
The PlayStation Network license method is different. It only has an account license and allows you to download any individual piece of content five times total before having to pay for it a second time.
For the PSP, you'll need to play iM@S SP under your Japanese account if you want to use DLC. The PSP does not allow sharing of content across accounts, even if you save it to the device's memory card and change the account on the PSP. Only the account that downloaded it can use it. Of course this means you can't use any of your American DLC while the Japanese account is linked on the PSP... It's up to you how to handle that.
The PS3 allows multiple accounts to be registered at once so this should be less of a problem. We will know when the PS3 Idolm@ster 2 comes out.