If you wanted to sum up the current gen of gaming, a couple of words come to mind, obviously the first is micro-transactions, but Season Pass is a close second. The idea of buying a brand new game, along with purchasing the game’s DLC content up front, to form a season pass. When you actually think about what it actually is, it seems absurd that developers and publishers have the gall to actually do it.
You couldn’t pay HBO up front for episodes of your favorite TV drama that they promise to make, so why should you for a game?
Things appear to be changing though. 2016 was arguably a slow year for gaming, but it still had some big releases, whether they were well received or not is beside the point. With the likes of Street Fighter V, Dark Souls III, Homefront: The Revolution, Gears of War 4, Watch Dogs 2, Final Fantasy XV and Dead Rising 4. All seven of these games came with season passes.
Let’s look at how a couple of these games handled their season passes.
Street Fighter V
The game launched in a dire state. Half of the content was missing, and an unfinished story mode prompted for extremely negative reviews. The game is in a much better state now, but that is only because of DLC. Buying the Deluxe edition of the game grants you Season 1 and Season 2 Character pass. Whilst they make the overall game better, however individually the two passes still were received poorly because to put it simply; they should have been part of the main game anyway. Season 1 has a 32% positive rating on Steam, and Season 2 fairs better with 64%. Each of these packs cost almost as much as half the original game anyway, so really they did the game more harm than good by Capcom releasing them.
Dark Souls III
Probably the strongest candidate on this list of games with season passes, and probably the one with the best content from its season pass. However, there is only a minimal price cut if you purchase the season pass prior to the DLC being released, compared to if you buy them both individually. Ashes of Ariandel scored only 58%, whilst The Ringed City rated at 85%. So really the consumer got hardly any benefits from picking up the Season Pass on the game’s launch.
Another example of poor Season Passes, is Fallout 4, most of it’s DLC is very poorly reviewed and you can more or less find better free mods to use instead to get a more polished experience.
This year publishers and developers seem to have grown aware that the general consumers are shying away from the season pass model, with probably 2017s highest profile game Star Wars Battlefront 2, outright saying they will no be releasing a Season Pass for their game. This shows true confidence in their title, as it was the season pass for their previous Battlefront which saved it from being a complete disaster, but it also gives the consumer confidence that the product that they purchase for $60 will at least hold gradual content improvements over the course of at least a year.
The same can be said for 2016’s Titanfall 2. Whilst it has fallen off the radar a little bit now due to other big hitters entering the market, but they announced that they too were not running a Season Pass model. So the dedicated player base that is still enjoying Titanfall 2 can still look forward to more content. It almost feels like this model of working is a way of thanking the player base for sticking around, or at least gives players that stopped playing the game, some incentive to start playing again when the new content comes out.
It seems weird that it’s 2017 and I am sitting here praising EA for some sound business practices, but that’s the crazy world we live in. Of course, Ubisoft is still entering the arena of Season Pass bliss for their big release, Assassin’s Creed Origins, but there is very little detail at the moment just how much the season pass on its own will cost, and what their plans are for future content for the game.
I hope consumers will voice their concerns with their wallet, and not fall foul of purchasing any season passes for big games as we start to move into the busy period for game releases, and actually wait to see if the content is worth their time. Heck, they might not even like the base game, so why waste your $20-30 up front when you can just purchase the base game, and then add the DLC when they launch on an as and when basis. You aren’t gaining anything by purchasing it from launch. It’s not like they are going to run out of digital downloads for it.
If the current trend continues, I don’t see how the Season Pass can be around much longer. There has been no glaringly obvious amazing Season Passes in recent years, and games which are moving away from the model appear to be having a much better reception from critiques and consumers alike.
What do you think of the current season pass model? Will it be around for years to come? Or have we seen the last of $30 map packs from online shooters?