There have been many trends in the video game industry over the past few decades, but one in particular is usually met with incredible disdain: the season pass. A season pass (for those who may not know) is a way for gamers to obtain post game content at a discounted price. The most notable season passes are usually map packs for high profile first-person shooters such as the Call of Duty or the Battlefield series. Other season passes can be costume packs (Dead Or Alive 5: Last Round), Single Player Expansions (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt), additional characters (Mortal Kombat X), or a mixture of a few of these categories (Rise of the Tomb Raider).
Season passes get a bad rap usually because of their high prices and the content that comes with a pass. While some passes don’t deserve the criticism that they receive, there are many games that should receive backlash because of a season pass. Look at Rainbow Six: Siege which actually rewarded players with more in game boosts for paying an additional $29.99. That pass came with the following:
- Seven-day exclusive early access to the eight new operators that players can instantly add to their roster upon release
- Permanent 5% Renown boost to allow players to unlock content quicker
- The exclusive Season Pass Porter weapon skin
- The Safari Bundle of five weapons skins
- Two extra daily Renown-earning challenges
- 600 R6 Credits that can be used to purchase additional in-game content
Sure, post game content such as maps and operators will be free, but this gives players who spend more an unfair advantage. Having the ability to level up faster shouldn’t be the way to play the game. Besides that, having early access and a few more weapon skins doesn’t justify the price tag.
Another major offender was Batman: Arkham Knight. That season pass was a gamble that I unfortunately invested in and was let down by. The promise of a half a year of content was enticing, but the end result was lackluster. Sure, there were a few side stories (Batgirl: A Matter of Family, Catwoman’s Revenge) and a cool expansion (Season of Infamy), but most of the pass consisted of trials and challenges that didn’t live up to the high caliber that Rocksteady is known for. That particular pass sold for $39.99 (at launch) which is more than half of what the game costs.
Season passes where the publisher and developer provide vague details about what actually comes in the pass are red flags. Star Wars Battlefront is a great example of how not to market a season pass. EA and DICE are charging $49.99 for a pass that comes with a handful of maps, a few new modes, and early access. I would be inclined to buy a pass if I knew the contents. With Battlefield and Call of Duty, fans know that the season pass will always be a map pass (and occasionally weapons in Battlefield) so the purchase is justifiable. Being in the dark about what comes in the pass is just bad for gamers.
This brings me to the point: the term season pass is often frowned upon, but what about the season passes that provide fun content (at an occasionally good price)? I’m a huge fan of the TT Games LEGO series. The season passes are great deals for fans of the franchise. LEGO Marvel’s Avengers has a promising $9.99 season pass that comes with level packs from the following properties:
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
- Black Panther
- Masters Of Evil
- Captain Marvel
- Doctor Strange
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham also featured a $14.99 season pass that came with Batman 75, The Dark Knight, Man of Steel, Arrow, Bizarro World, and The Squad (Suicide Squad) level packs. For LEGO game enthusiasts, a few hours of extra content for these prices isn’t bad. The fact that TT Games and WB Games were open about the contents of the pack brought an added bonus.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is another example of a season pass that isn’t bad. Crystal Dynamics said beforehand that the season pass would come with content that would expand the single player experience as well as the Expeditions gametype. So far, within 3 months of release, most of the content that comes in the season pass has been released. The engaging Endurance mode and the cool and mystical Baby Yaga: The Temple of the Witch are now available for players as well as various other costumes with new stats for Lara. There is still another single player expansion coming soon and while we don’t know what exactly that will be, at least we have the information that it will be another piece of story content.
Season passes can also provide more content than many full priced games. CD Projekt Red should be praised for what they are doing with the season pass. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the most critically acclaimed games of 2015 and for good reason. The story is gripping and the characters are well written. It also helps that there are plenty of diverse quests and the visuals are absolutely stunning. The expansion pass for The Witcher 3 comes with two expansions. Hearts of Stone which released late last year to great reviews and the upcoming Blood and Wine. Hearts of Stone adds 10-17 hours of gameplay and if the next expansion does the same thing, that will be about 30 hours of post-game content. The expansion pass costs $24.99 and is worth more than a majority of season passes on the market. CD Projekt RED is a respected developer that is providing fantastic content for a reasonable price, and that’s a huge win for the gaming community.
Season passes don’t need to be met with such dislike. For every bad season pass, there are two or three that go completely unnoticed. Whether that is because developers don’t come forward and advertise a particular pass or maybe it’s because the media doesn’t write about the “good” passes, a lot can be done to remedy this situation. Many people (including myself) always say to “vote with your wallet” and I think that this is an important practice when it comes to season passes. The more people who purchase passes that are overly expensive or come with content that doesn’t justify the price, that only encourages the developers to continue on with this trend. Hopefully down the road, we will be treated to some more worthwhile content instead of expensive season passes that cost as much as the game itself.