hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Who's really benefiting from Season Passes?

4:00 PM on 01.28.2013 // Brett Makedonski
  @Donski3

Chances are, it's not you

[Brett Makedonski is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, whose regular work can be found on 360Sync. Seeing how he's the conversational type, feel free to talk to him on Twitter at @Donski3.]

Most videogame publishers are particularly adept at their jobs. It’s tough to argue with results, and any publisher that is operating at a profit is, in the scheme of things, succeeding. Publishers fill many much-needed roles - from funding developers to marketing the games - but their primary function is always, always, always to make money.

Over the years, publishers have evolved their approaches to extracting every last penny out of consumers. One of the latest (yet well-tested) means of doing such is the season downloadable content pass. On the surface, season passes appear to be a good-natured offering, but the publishers’ true motives are revealed after just a bit of inspection.

For the uninitiated, season passes are a one-time unlock for (usually) all of a game’s future downloadable content releases. Rockstar pioneered the concept in May 2011 by offering all of L.A. Noire’s DLC for $10 with the pass, as opposed to $20 when purchased à la carte. Featuring savings of 50%, this seemed to be an amicable proposal at the time. However, it didn’t take long for similar deals to feel less like good will, and more like outright exploitation.



Season passes are presented rather modestly as a “win-win”, of sorts. This seemingly mutualistic relationship is centered around the premise that the consumer saves a bit of money (something usually along the lines of saving $10 on $40 worth of DLC), and the publisher receives the funds up-front and cements the sale, albeit at a discounted rate. It all seems innocent enough until one considers the way that these season passes directly counteract the very culture of gaming.

At the time of writing, approximately twenty-some videogames feature a variation of a season pass. Besides the titles that are intended to be episodic (such as The Walking Dead), almost all of these are AAA games with a clearly defined post-release DLC schedule. AAA games, by virtue, are the ones that are the most anticipated, have the highest budgets, and are purchased by the most people. They’re also the games that most often prey on the instincts of their players.

It’s certainly no coincidence that the biggest name titles are the ones to take full advantage of the season pass concept. Each of these games gets to piggyback off of its own hype and player enthusiasm in the weeks following release. It’s commonplace to load one of these games for the first time and instantly be greeted with a message announcing the existence of a season pass. While typically disregarded, it usually isn’t long before a thought creeps into the player’s head that’s along the lines of “Hey, this game is really good! I’m definitely going to buy all of the DLC!”



The problem with this is that the vast majority of players would never have actually bought all of the DLC. The culture of gaming puts so much emphasis on what’s new and what’s “now”, that games are rarely relevant throughout the duration of their post-release content. This is how season passes act as an ingenious failsafe. Instead of depending on the individual DLC to generate buzz six months after the game releases, it banks on the game itself to sell the DLC immediately.

The end result is all too often a consumer that owns the right to download several pieces of content, but with no real interest in the game anymore. When they first bought the game, their interest was at an all-time high, and they pronounced this temporary loyalty with an additional $30 purchase. A few months down the road, it’s at an all-time low; they’ve moved on. All the while, publishers capitalize by artificially lengthening the shelf-life of their game, and turning a $60 investment into a $90 investment.

As a personal anecdote, I’ve bought exactly three season passes since the inception of the idea -- Gears of War 3, Max Payne 3, and Borderlands 2. I’ve felt extreme buyer’s remorse for the former two; time will tell regarding the latter. In all honesty, I downloaded one Gears of War 3 add-on and never even touched the Max Payne 3 packs, despite having paid for them all. Having fallen victim to purchasing the season passes when I was emotionally highest on the games, by the time the DLC started rolling out, my interest had waned and so had everyone’s on my friends list.



In addition to ramifications on the consumers’ side, this brings about a whole new cause of concern regarding the creative integrity of the promised DLC. With a good chunk of money already paid, what incentive do the developers have to produce really outstanding content? Sure, there are still some potential sales to be earned, but if the number of season passes sold determines that the add-on is a commercial success before it’s even finished, what stops the developers from phoning it in? At that point, wouldn’t it be awfully easy for a development team to have their eyes on future projects and view the DLC as more of an obligatory nuisance than anything else?

The harsh reality of business is that we’ll never get statistics regarding the specifics of season passes. If anything, we may get fed how many for a particular game are sold. Never will we find out more interesting morsels such as an average of undownloaded add-ons per season pass sold. I’d be willing to bet that the results would be wildly unflattering.

The videogame industry is constantly changing and revolutionizing its approaches to getting content into the players’ hands, and season passes are one of the most popular methods right now. However, potential consumers need to tread lightly, as often only the most focused and dedicated of players will actually benefit. All others will only unintentionally line the pockets of the publishers.

For reference, here are all the games that have come out with season passes:

*Note: Several of these season passes grant access to smaller unlockables that were not factored into the following calculations.

Games with season passes / Number of add-ons / Season pass price / Price of content individually / % saved



Brett Makedonski, Associate Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure Donski3 Tips
Brett will sell you things in a dark alley -- mostly counterfeit watches and kidneys. Not counterfeit kidneys, though; even I have my lines, man. Guaranteed: All my kidneys are completely legit. ... more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

ScreamAid avatarScreamAid
Gee whilikers, guys. I might just explain where I've been and what I've been up to while I've been gone. That'd be a good topic for a c-blog getting me whipped back into shape, right? I'ma try to write more, so expect more of me in the future!
bloma avatarbloma
Just bought Fez for xbox 360. Playing it on my 58 inch plasma. What a beautiful game.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
So there's a chance more MKX characters are being revealed today. Now, I'm not saying you *should* cross your fingers and say a prayer for me to get my waifu Sindel just, y'know, it would be monstrous of you to make me cry with your lack of love & support
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
Just so you know, I've been a Huge subscriber for a few years but I thought I had until the end of September to cancel it. So I've opened an inquiry for the refund, which is on tinypass' end of things by the way.
techsupport avatartechsupport
I once posted that Total Recall was the best movie ever made. I would like to make note that Starship Troopers is a close second. Carry on.
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
I put too many peppers in my sausage and potatoes. My asshole is on fire. I want to cry when I wipe. But it was good.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
One glorious Japanese twitter user made a custom LBX of one of my favorite Kamen Riders: [img]http://i.imgur.com/yp1oraHm.jpg[/img] It's like getting peanut butter in chocolate but with small robots and spandex banana men!
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
I feel terrible for not reading most of you beautiful people's blogs. Let's just say my passion is writing, not reading :s
techsupport avatartechsupport
People can debate GOTY all they want, but the real question is: D-Horse or Roach?
Mr Knives avatarMr Knives
I'm dragging myself away from my PS4 long enough to say that MGS V is pretty darn awesome so far.
Myles Cox avatarMyles Cox
Down with that PAX Pox. Auhhhghghghhhh
Shinta avatarShinta
MGSV: Sneaking into a heavily guarded Russian military base in Afghanistan at night, slashing throats while listening to this. [youtube]https://youtu.be/-hWZqllm3mQ[/youtube] Comes off like a perfectly planned scene in a Scorsese movie or something.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Tortilla chips: The only food I know and love to betray me by deciding to flip to a bad angle and stab me in the gums.
IDrawOnTape avatarIDrawOnTape
I'm ok with Namco shutting down Soul Calibur: Lost Souls, as long as they keep Ace Combat:Infinity running. Love that game and just hit 3 million credits.
ScreamAid avatarScreamAid
Holy fuck I feel new again. I've been on hiatus for a while and haven't been up to writing. I might just jump back into things after I relearn things here. Does anyone even remember me? Like damn it's been a while.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
In MGS5: The Phantom Pain, Solid Snake dies from lung cancer from all those years of smoking. #FakeSpoilers
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
[youtube]http://youtu.be/FDSHslyrxkM[/youtube] If you don't know the truth, you don't know the score. The end is coming near. MAJOR SPOILERS!
Paul S avatarPaul S
Wow, it's really easy to get people upset over video games.
wutangclam avatarwutangclam
I hope MGS V is living up to everyone's expectations. I can't get enough.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
I dislike the idea of intentionally reinforcing the notions that either race or gender are character traits, and those that don't match your own are completely unrelatable.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -