Elite Season Passes – The Other Side of the Coin
If you have not read Chris Maeurer’s blog post “Elite Season Passes, Taken for a Ride,” I would suggest you do so before continuing to read this one. There are two reasons for that:
- Chris is an excellent writer (even if his punctuation is atrocious :P), and he has done a good job of presenting not only some of the factual issues of the new Season Pass trend but also presents his argument well.
- This blog post is in answer to some of the points he brought up in that blog post.
So now that you have read the post, I would like to present a different take on this new trend. I am not saying I am fully supporting it; I am not. I do see, however, how it could be very good for certain gamers.
The Elephant in the Room: DLC
In order to really address this new business model, we need to look at what brought us here. While Chris stated he was going to avoid the issue of DLC and some of his objections to it, I believe the only way I can address this issue is to explain what has lead us to it.
Back in the day, when a game was done, it was done. There was no chance of getting to spend any more time in the world unless the developer chose to either make a new game within the same universe or release an expansion pack. Expansion packs added new content to the world, including anything from new characters to new levels. Thing is, they were priced only a little less than a full fledged game, sometimes even matching the game’s full price. Some publishers understood that was an issue for gamers, so they put a ton of work into those expansion packs.
The undisputed king of the expansion packs was Blizzard. Diablo’sÂ expansion pack added new missions and a whole new character with new skill sets. StarCraft’sÂ expansion, Brood War, was basically a second game in the same universe, with 10 new missions for each race and brand new units for both single and multiplayer. Warcraft 3 had the Frozen Throne expansion, which was very similar in scope of content to Brood War, and there can be no arguing with what the company has added to World of Warcraft. Other companies made similar expansions; they were commonplace for Real Time Strategy games.
As the consoles became more online capable and companies spent more money and time developing the big games, the idea of providing more content for games started to change. It started with just a few titles, but in time gamers started noticing this trend where game designers were adding extra content to games for a fee. This did not necessarily go over well at first (horse armor anyone?), but over time, some developers started to figure out how to get the most out of this new Downloadable content, or DLC. As this trend started to permeate the consoles, developers started to apply it to PC games, leaving many PC gamers wondering what happened to their expansion packs.
So here we sit: DLC is here to stay, and at this time there is nothing we are going to be able to do about it. Developers have decided they can make more money by releasing additional content in this new model, and many gamers are just buying it all up. Granted, some companies like Capcom have been accused of intentionally leaving things out of games just to include them in DLC or newer versions of the game. Still, there have been some examples of DLC done right; Mass Effect 2’s “Lair of the Shadow Broker” and Borderlands’ “Secret Armory of General Knoxx” are two examples of just how good DLC can be.
So now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at the idea of the Season Pass.
What Do We Have Here?
It is a little hard to talk about these premium passes right now because, as they are so new, there is not a set model for them. Chris laid out the various ones currently available, and at least one of them just sounds stupid in my opinion. The EA Sports Season Pass just screams money grab to me. You will gain 3 days worth of early access to certain sports titles, discounts on DLC and some additional ways to manage leagues online for $24.95? I guess if I was a serious sports gamer, this might be worthwhile, but as it stands it just seems like a waste of money. The Rockstar pass was a little better, but only because of the price; if you never bought any of the LA Nior DLC, you just spent $10 for nothing.
So that leaves us with two other examples:
- Call of Duty Elite – While I will be the first to admit this is not for me, the basic idea intrigues me. First off, it is the only one where you can gain some of the features offered for free. Want to create a class online for your next multiplayer match? You got it. Want to organize clans and play groups? Go for it. You can get that and more for free, or for $49.99, you can get all of the Modern Warfare 3 DLC for free, more specific clan tools, early access to new Elite features and much more. On top of that, you can get a year’s subscription of Elite for free if you buy the Hardened edition of Modern Warfare 3 for $99.99.
- Gears of War 3 Pass – The Gears of War 3 Season Pass gives gamers a discount on the first 4 DLC packs released for the game. The pass will run gamers $30.00 (2400 MS points), which is being presented as a 33% discount on the DLC, leading people to believe the combined standard price will be $45.00 (3600 MS points).
So there you have it. Two separate passes which offer gamers more content or more ways to enjoy their game for some extra money. While neither of these particular packs are of great interest to me, I must say I kind of like the possibilities. Why, you ask? Well, let me address that with a modification of the example Chris used in his article: the amusement park season pass.
Step Right Up!
Let’s say I go to Six Flags Magic Mountain in LA. The person at the ticket window asks me if I want to just buy a ticket for one day or if I want to pay more for a season pass, which would allow me to come back to the park as many times as I want to throughout the year. This question intrigues me, so I decide to step back a bit and think through my options.
If I choose to buy the pass, I will be able to return to Six Flags at anytime throughout the year for free. So if the park is currently building a new ride which will not open till later that year or I want to come back for one of the various series of concerts or festivals held at the park, I will not have to pay any additional money. Now this pass will not let me go to Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm or Universal Studios for free; if I want to visit those parks, I will have to pay for them separately. The season pass will let me to take advantage of everything Six Flags has to offer, but it will only give me access Six Flags.
Now if this were to happen in real life, I would probably decline to buy the season pass. Sure, I love Six Flags Magic Mountain, but I do not live in LA; I live in Phoenix, some 6 plus hours away. I would not want to make multiple trips out to Six Flags in one year, so I would not get enough use out of the season pass to make it worth the extra money. Now if Six Flags were to build a park in Phoenix (a man can dream), I would be all over this, and I would go to the park more than enough times to make up for the extra money I spent up front.
The same can be said for gaming season passes. Granted, Call of Duty Elite Premium and the Gears of War 3 Season Pass do not really appeal to me as I have never bought any of the DLC for any of the titles in either of these series. What if EA chooses to offer something like this for Mass Effect 3, however, or 2K offers it for Borderlands 2? I did buy the DLC for both of those franchises, and they were good enough I would be more than willing to pay some extra money up front to receive those DLC packs at a discount. For me, it would be worth it.
Is Choice a Bad Thing?
Many gamers are looking at these passes as something which is being forced on us. As things stand right now, that is not truly the case. Unlike the online pass trend, all of these premium passes have been optional. Heck, I think the EA Sports Season Pass is a waste of money, but who I am to say EA should not be allowed to offer it or that gamers who really want it should not be allowed to waste… I mean spend their money *cough* #dezisanoob *cough*. As long as developers make these optional, I do not see why gamers are getting so up in arms about them.
Now if a developer decides at some point to make gamers buy Season Passes just to get DLC…. Yeah, at that time I will unleash all of my fury on this idea. Until that happens, I do not think it is worth getting that worked up over developers giving gamers the choice to spend more money on the games they love.