I became involved in multiplayer gaming when it was considerably past its infancy. When I was younger, I toyed with Tibia (an MMORPG), but that was about it. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I began playing on Xbox Live, on titles such as Modern Warfare. When I look back, I don’t recall a ‘season pass’ or ‘DLC’ being a subject for debate – it rarely existed. However, it would only be a few years before almost every game came out with some kind of digital add-on attached…
It’s all too familiar: pay ‘x’ to unlock ‘x’. If you buy now, you get everything in advance. If you buy here, you get exclusive content. Then, it was ‘time-saving packs’ – pay a small amount to beat the queue, or the grind. There were season passes for games that you wouldn’t have ever thought needed one, and more expansions than you could shake a stick at.
Today, there’s a new kid on the block, and their name is ‘Seasons’.
These developers have become wiser. They understand that people aren’t falling for traditional season passes anymore – there’s a drop in the appeal of it all. When a season pass often costs as much as a game, who will invest on day one?
However, if you split up that purchase cost into several smaller bundles and label it ‘seasons’ or ‘chapters’, people are much more likely to invest. It’s economics. It’s repayment plans, hire purchasing and leasing, loans and credit cards. Hey, don’t give us £40 now, just give us £10 once every two months for the next eight months.
Helpful to the grown gamer who already has so much to pay for? Yes.
A sneaky tactic to ensure retention of your player base and better coverage of long-term payment? Definitely.
They all do it: Call of Duty, Red Dead Online, Battlefield, Fortnite… Seasons upon seasons. Is this structure better or worse than a traditional season pass?
Let’s write an example.
A season pass will traditionally have all the content defined ahead of time, and you know exactly what you’re buying. This presents the player with a potential issue: what if I only want one thing in that season pass? Do I pay full price regardless?
More often than not, these expansions or add-ons will be available (albeit at a higher price) separately at a later date. This now outdated way of thinking was driven mostly by FOMO; I want it as soon as it comes out, so I’ll buy the season pass now.
But what about long-term cost?
If a game has eight seasons in a year (God forbid) and each one is £10, you’ve spent £80. However, if you track back a few years, that season pass may only have been £30 up front. It’s a ploy – because the payments are broken up, you think you’re spending less.
In terms of retention, seasons are ingenious.
Oh, you’re the maximum level? Well, it’s season two now, we’ve reset the level! Everyone has been calling out online for a particular map or weapon? Well, that’s coming in season three – keep playing! It’s a new season, want to have the edge over your friends? Buy this pass!
In the wake of the debates surrounding microtransactions and lootboxes, it’s easy to see why digital purchasing and downloadable content has been restructured. The season model is quickly rising in popularity, echoed by the success of episodic titles. However, I’m on the fence. I don’t know whether seasons are a good idea, or a mischievous one.
The evidence is there, economically – the developers aren’t being blase about it. In fact, a recent study by WePC shows an exponential increase in the purchase of digital content over ‘packaged’ or physical copies. They’ve also stated that the DLC market value increased by a whopping 121% over seven years.
What do you think?
Are seasons better than season passes?
Have you been convinced to purchase any seasonal content yourself?
Let us know.