Gamers who purchased Mass Effect 2 will recall that the standard edition of the game—both the console or the digital version on the PC—received with their copies the Zaeed DLC. Those who purchased the game secondhand or rented had to pick the DLC up from the online store to access the content.
The DLC added a new character, Zaeed, to the roster of party members along with a lengthy mission to attain his loyalty. Zaeed's presence, while not mandatory to the game's overall plot, added a bit of nuance to its narrative and the content was far from negligible.
Following the trend that began with the release of Shale as a DLC character in Dragon Age, and Zaeed in Mass Effect 2, BioWare once again plans to release a Day-1 DLC for Mass Effect 3. Other games have also done the same with their Day-1 DLC content, and examples can be found with Arkham City's Catwoman DLC and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning's House of Valor DLC. It should be clarified that all this content is available to anyone who purchases the standard editions of these games, and comes at no extra charge.
Spoiler Warning: A minor plot detail follows.
Titled "Mass Effect 3: From Ashes," the content of the DLC was leaked out accidentally when Microsoft published it on the Xbox Live Marketplace on February 20 (Kotaku). The DLC invites players to "unearth lost secrets of the past" and enlist a Prothean party member. This revelation confirms the leak of the design document that was leaked last year, which contained images of the aforementioned character.
Here's where things get messy. Associate Producer Michael Gamble confirmed the leak on the BioWare Social Network with the following post (via Kotaku, again):
We're happy to confirm that Mass Effect 3: From Ashes DLC will be available at launch for all platforms. For those of you who have purchased the N7 Collector's Edition (including the PC Digital Deluxe Edition), you will get this content at no extra charge. We'll have a lot more details for you later this week! Stay Tuned!
From what I've gathered of this statement, it confirms that BioWare is bucking the trend it set with Dragon Age and followed up with its sequel and Mass Effect 2 by making the content a separate purchase for anyone who picks up the standard (non-Collector's or Digital Deluxe) edition of Mass Effect 3.
Previously in Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age, the only in-game content associated with the Collector's Editions were additional armor and weaponry. As I mentioned earlier, content as large as the DLCs including Zaeed and Shale were always included free of charge. Dragon Age 2 went a small step further, by restricting The Exiled Prince DLC to "Signature" copies of the game, which all pre-orders were upgraded to.
This has changed.
With Mass Effect 3, we now have to pay for content that's been developed concurrently with the rest of the game, but released separately for extra profit—and to make the Collector's Edition look more attractive to buyers.
It's understandable for DLC to be released separately and sold for an additional cost when they're developed as extensions to a pre-existing game or as 'added value items' impertinent to the core experience. However, it's unacceptable for core elements (in my very subjective opinion, this content has been vital in the past) of the game to be stripped out of the main game just so they can be sold separately for an extra price.
To draw an analogy, it's like selling a watch with one hand missing.