Depends on which game.
In DA:O, Shale was available with all new game purchases. This was their anti-used tool, as everyone else needed to buy her (and she was certainly worth having).
DA2 used a very different system. The Black Emporium (which includes the Mabari) was their anti-used tool. And it's not a bad one, realistically--only place to respec, you get free damage from the dog, and you can get rez grenades. Never bothered with any of the gear myself, but I very rarely buy gear in an RPG.
Sebastian was free for anyone who pre-ordered (by January 11th, for the March release). That upgraded you to the Signature Edition, which was actually a great incentive for early adopters. It got you the DLC character free, plus the soundtrack, and a handful of in-game items that were useful early on.
I paid for Sebastian, and the Soundtrack. It would have been a much better deal, naturally, for me to pre-order. But I'm okay with not having done so. I very easily could have gotten both for free if I was willing to commit. There was a good 3 months to pre-order the Signature Edition, so it's not like I didn't have time.
So while I'm not really okay with that kind of at-launch DLC, I'm not abhorring it. Its purpose wasn't to ***** anyone over, it was to encourage early adoption. I was well aware the version existed, and chose to wait. Not okay, but not pure evil either. Sebastian was even more tied into the game than Shale was, so better to have (imo). Only thing he didn't offer that every other companion did was an armor upgrade.
ME1 had no DLC companions (and only 1/2 DLC was for a price, at least on the PC). ME2 included one companion in their new game system (Cerberus Network) who was a joke and poorly implemented. Another was released several months later, who was also a poorly implemented joke. Both were, quite literally, optional. You didn't miss out by not having them (unlike Shale or Sebastian).
This is very different. This is charging for a launch character DLC when you definitely developed him alongside the game. It's charging $10, which was what the cost of your new incentive DLC was (the multiplayer pass for ME3 is $10). The fact that he has game files in the demo proves that he was implemented from the start, so he's probably actually shipping ON THE DISC. And the art book proves that he was intended as a squad member from early development.
If they had done a Signature Edition deal, I wouldn't have complained. I essentially paid the CE cost for DA2 because I didn't partake in the SE option, but that was okay because I had another choice to get those things free.
That should have been the case here.
Honestly, this also feels like a push to get people to buy up the rest of the CEs. They're $20 more, but come with the DLC dog, the $10 From Ashes, and the soundtrack. A la carte, that's probably more than $20 right there.
Anyways, you all are horrible, @#%^ed up people
Never underestimate the healing power of a massive dong.