Season Passes have quickly become a mainstay in modern gaming. Since 2011 when they first started rearing their head, nearly every title released these days includes one, and worse still, sometimes you don’t even know what you’re paying in advance for. So, with this article, we’re going to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Season Pass.
The first Season Pass to reveal itself was in May of 2011. The game was L.A Noire by Rockstar Games and Team Bondi. For an additional $10, you could get access to new content drops for each of the game’s chapters, as well as some exclusive clothing or weaponry.
Mortal Kombat 9 was also one of the first Season Pass games, although the pass was not readily available at launch as far as I recall. It allowed you to download all future DLC characters when they released, making it cheaper than buying them all individually.
A game I fondly remember for having a Season Pass in its early days was Gears of War 3. This Season Pass kind of set the stage for what Activision does annually now with Call of Duty. Epic charged fans $30 and guaranteed them four content drops following the game’s release. Each one contained new character skins, some multiplayer maps, weapons skins, and one of the packs included a 3 hour campaign set prior to Gears of War 1.
Call of Duty began to feature Season Passes in the form of ‘Call of Duty Elite‘, a premium service introduced with Modern Warfare 3. Subscribers could access player data and statistics, as well as receive early access to new downloadable content. The service was eventually made free, and it was Black Ops 2 a year later when the Season Pass was introduced, allowing players to pay in advance for the four planned content drops. Call of Duty Elite was shut down in 2013.
EA hopped on the Season Pass band wagon too with Battlefield 3. Known as the Premium Pass, this allowed Battlefield fans to pay in advance for five content add-ons. The first one, ‘Back to Karkand’ was free for those who pre-ordered or bought the limited edition copy at launch. It was also with Battlefield 3 that EA introduced an ‘Online Pass’ which came with each new copy of the game. If you bought the game used, you would have to pay EA directly to receive a code to play online. This cost users roughly $12.
Borderlands 2 is a game that’s in a league of its own when it comes to Season Passes. Not only did it have a season pass, it had two season passes! A year one, and a year two, with each adding a substantial amount of extras for Borderlands enthusiasts. On top of that, there was also some Headhunter DLC, along with two new characters. It may have set players back by some amount financially, but it certainly added tonnes of new content to an already fantastic title.
And that brings me on to the main question here about Season Passes. Are they worth it? Is it just a quick cash grab, selling content that was stripped out of the game and sold back to fans as a separate add on? Some games and publishers may be guilty of the latter, but in many cases, it adds a lot more fun and enjoyment to existing titles, far and beyond exceeding the limitations of the base game.
The primary concern for many is generally the price and the content you’re being offered. Worse still is when you don’t know what you’re paying for. Last year, Warner Bros and Rocksteady Studios came under fire with the announcement of a Season Pass for Batman: Arkham Knight. It was extremely pricey, with very few details as to what you were paying for.
Rainbow Six Siege is also a recent title that was clutching at straws when Ubisoft detailed the Season Pass content. It granted you access to all future Operators a week early, for free. Non-Season Pass holders would have to spend the in-game currency Renown to purchase them. It also granted 5% extra Renown in matches, and gave you weapon skins and some credit to spend on more weapon skins. It was overpriced, and the time between content drops on Siege is abysmal. The game launched in December, and we have had one content drop so far, with the next one planned for May. Each content drop offers two new Operators and one map.
Bethesda had a Season Pass available for Fallout 4 when the game shipped in November, but at the time, they weren’t stating what would be included. Because it was Fallout 4 however, fans weren’t too concerned about paying in advance. Fallout 3 had additional content previously and it was well regarded, so fans expected similar. In March, we finally got our first Fallout 4 DLC with the Automatron add-on.
Season Passes are generally touchy subjects for many, but I think the worst habits are ones mentioned above:
- Be clear about what fans are paying for, especially if you’re selling the Season Pass at the time of the game’s launch
- Be fair in what you’re offering. If it seems like something that was removed during development only to be sold back to fans post-launch, your customers won’t be happy.
- Make sure the content comes regularly and timely. Don’t have us waiting 6 months for the first sign of new content.
- Sell it at a fair price that doesn’t match the price of the base game.
What are your thoughts on Season Passes, and what example would you give for a good Season Pass, and a bad Season Pass if you can remember?