Love them or hate them?
Season passes are evil. Or they could be a great way to treat players with integrity. It kind of depends on how you look at it. If you don’t mind paying money for further updates and enhancements, then they are well worth looking into. However, if you believe that games are meant to be low-cost entertainment, you hate the idea.
It's black and white stuff. But before we dive into the topic, let’s take a look at some issues. Perhaps the biggest culprits in season pass exploitation are games like Paladins or Fortnite, where season passes are there and sometimes only offer a new skin and an extra battleground map.
That wouldn't even be much of a problem because as long as value is there in the buyer’s mind, it will just be another,justified expense. However, recent season pass content hasn't really provided much value for the consumer.
The big one here is Fallout 4. This was an incredibly popular game without the season pass, but the pass brought plenty of new and fun experiences for players. Or at least that was the idea.
This is a complex game, and Fallout 4 eventually released 6 DLC purchases. The season pass holders were not impressed, because the bigger the world of Fallout 4 was, the more they had to spend.
What’s more, there wasn't really that much to some of the Fallout 4 season pass stuff. Quite uninspiring, it made players feel like they had been cheated, unless that bought it before the price change. This was probably one of the best-known cases of season pass failure.
The blind purchase
You know how kids can go into a toy store and buy ‘blind bags’? This is where the children have no idea whatsoever about what might be in the bag they have bought, so that once they buy it, the toy that comes out is a surprise.
That's kind of how season passes work. Because we are at the mercy of developers, this means that we are essentially paying for new stuff with the season pass we bought, only to find that some of the new stuff is good, and some of it is bad. It takes a truly committed development team to create DLC that is worthy of downloading.
Not knowing what you’ll get out of the season pass purchase in the months after the game’s launch makes everything a little hard to swallow.
Why are season passes still happening?
You may have heard the recent stories about the game Red Dead Redemption 2. This game is pretty amazing, to be honest. But it ought to be, because the developers basically didn't sleep for nights on end while trying to finish the game. It literally resulted in developers losing sleep, working incredibly long hours, and facing the kind of stress you wouldn't wish on anyone.
Now that particular game may not have a ton of DLC in its future, but it serves to illustrate one of the reasons why the game industry is so bent on protecting the idea of season passes. The passes lock players into long-term play. By doing this, and making players excited about the next piece of DLC, those developer teams are (eventually) paid a little more for their work. It makes perfect sense from that point of view.
When season passes actually make real sense
Games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band are perhaps the only truly justified examples of season pass options. Because the developers are working hard to find new songs and pieces of music for you to play, the catalogue can always be extending itself, This simply means that the season pass allows you to pick up the latest songs and therefore add massively to the value you first gained with the purchase.
So if you want to play different genres of music or simply cover different artists and groups, a season pass is kind of logical. And therein lies the problem that other game developers create. As soon as DLC becomes less than valuable, you’re in a situation where that significant first purchase of a season pass becomes a let down.
But when a FPS game brings you DLC of a new game mode or new classes, it isn’t such a bad thing then either. You’re getting more out of the game, and experiencing it in a new way. With the Battlefield series of games, for example, you can gain whole new maps as the months progress. While some games like these are simply not presenting players with season passes anymore (and that is a growing trend), it wasn't the worst kind of season pass experience in the first place.