These practises have to stop.
The season pass. It’s the latest trend in the gaming industry being used to make gaming more profitable and enjoyable for the community. Lauded as a worthy successor to the notorious loot boxes that were destroying much of what made playing enjoyable and reducing gaming to an RNG loot-based nightmare, season or battle passes can now be found pretty much everywhere.
The premise of season passes is simple, whereas loot boxes offered us gambling based rewards that actually produced very little in exchange for real-world money, the Season Pass gives players a limited time, usually between 50-100 days, to work towards earning a series of in-game items. Some items are free but most are locked behind a small paywall that unlocks rarer items. No chance or luck involved here, just rewards given through hard work and determination
Now, this may sound perfect. A win-win situation for the gamer and the publisher alike. And in theory, it does work, no longer are we forced to spend hours upon hours or ludicrous amounts of cash just to be given the chance to unlock something special, we can earn what we want, with no Random Number Generator loot system to be found, with the exception of EA bullish refusal to change the systems found in its sports franchises such as FIFA and Madden.
However, that’s where the veneer of fairness ends, for if we scratch just below the surface we can find more examples of publishers using insidious methods of reaching into our pockets and asking for yet more of our hard-earned money. If one or two games employed this battle pass system, all would be fine, but the sheer multitude of games that use them is astonishing. Fortnite popularised the practice, and now it is found in almost every popular multiplayer game, some of these include but are not limited to Doom Eternal, Apex Legends, Call of Duty, Destiny 2, Gears of War 5 and Fallout 76.
To continuously put time and effort into unlocking rewards for all of these games is impossible, even for the most skilled, dedicated and organised gamers among us. Earning all of the available loot would take nonsensical man-hours of gameplay that not only takes the fun out of the actual gameplay by turning the experience into a reward-driven fever dream, it also prevents us from enjoying other single-player games. To my shame, I still haven’t played titles like The Witcher 3 or Assassins Creed: Odyssey because I have been so focused on earning multiplayer loot elsewhere.
To those who say that’s my personal choice, that I am at fault for neglecting certain games in favour of others I say that you’re right, to a certain extent.
With every new ‘season’ of a multiplayer game, we are bombarded with a flurry of media and advertising akin to that of a new release. We jump aboard the hype train and become hell-bent on acquiring all of the latest rewards, once that season comes and goes, another is already being teased, and all of this, don’t forget, is happening across multiple games. Is it then, any wonder that our single-player greats are being ignored?
Of course, for those too busy with work, school or other games to complete a season pass via gameplay there is another option that only serves to prove my point that these passes need to scuppered. Virtually every game to offer a season pass also offers the option to purchase rewards either for real-world money or in exchange for in-game currency that can be purchased with actual money.
Take the example of Call of Duty, to purchase all 100 tiers worth of rewards in the battle pass would cost at least 15000 COD points (Call of Duty’s in-game currency) and this would set you back a minimum of $99/£80. That’s a lot of money to spend on in-game transactions for just one game in an industry saturated with multiple battle passes.
This sort of practise leaves a bad taste in the mouth of this gamer and many others out there. Punishment for those with limited playtime or those committed to other games, we are given an ultimatum with the season pass, cough up or miss out.
While this is still a better alternative to the loot boxes of old it is still a nuanced yet oppressive tool to get gamers to spend more money after purchasing a game and that, in my humble opinion, needs to be stopped altogether. Perhaps that is why we are seeing a rise in the popularity of multiplayer games such as Among Us that allow us to just enjoy the gameplay rather than become overly focused on earning rewards.
Whatever direction the industry heads from here all we can hope for is a revolution that puts the wants and needs of fans ahead of the greed of publishers.