The DLC Is Out Of Season But I’m Still Holding My Season Pass
There are those of you who have never purchased downloadable content and stuck only to the core experience of games; this article is not for you. There are those of you who purchase downloadable content only when it’s absolutely necessary for the experience; again, this article is not for you. (You’re going to buy the DLC, regardless.)
Now, with those two extremes out of the way, let’s address the rest of the room. You guys who delve in DLC for your games, but don’t always do so. Tell me, what sways your purchasing decision?
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Sure enough, you get some really great DLC packs such as the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2, which add to the game in every way to the point that they become widely considered to be the premium experience for that game; something only really possible a while after the original game has gone gold, allowing the development team that much more time to refine and create the pinnacle experience.
But sometimes there is DLC that is neither here nor there. Entertaining, a joy to play, but not something you would miss dearly if you passed up on.
A few years ago the gaming industry saw the introduction of a Season Pass. I’m not sure which game started the trend — I’ve done extensive research but nothing points to a definitive origin — but I am pretty sure that Gears of War 3 was the first triple-A title to popularise the concept.
For those who don’t know, a Season Pass is basically a pre-order of DLC, where the developer promises you a certain number of DLC packs for a discounted bundle price. You need not pay early, you need not pay at all; you could just purchase all of the DLC packs separately if you’d like, but the real incentive with a season pass is saving a little bit of money and getting a developer’s promise that there will be content releasing for the game you’ve purchased.
Apparently Irrational only recently read that memo.
We’ll get back to that in a bit. In recent years, practically every game with a solid DLC support structure has opted for a Season Pass approach. It makes sense after all; if gamers pre-purchase DLC then you’ve got some income to work with, in order to actually make that DLC. Alas, many developers have used this gamer trust to sell promises, and have not quite delivered as expected. Some other developers have gone above and beyond, offering exclusive perks with their Season Passes, to further incentivise the early adoption.
Rockstar Games gets a nod here, for their Rockstar Passes. Also Epic Games, with their VIP Pass in Gears of War: Judgment.
It’s not quite pay-to-win because these games don’t benefit from any sort of system that could be aided by DLC, but it’s just something cosmetic and yet worth the asking price, for gamers. As an example, the Rockstar Pass in L.A. Noire grants outfits and a new challenge mode, whereas the VIP Pass in Judgment opens up a new VIP-only Double XP playlist, usually only available to regular players during events and special weekends.
These are great ways to use the Season Pass, however there are some which aren’t so sterling.
I’m going to immediately point to BioShock: Infinite now, because it’s been months and months and we’ve not heard a fucking squeak from Irrational Games until this past week. I was one of those who purchased a Season Pass in good faith, and I’m still awaiting my first story addon. I’ll grant that they needed some time to work on quality content but when you invest, you tend to get a little impatient after too long. After all, Bethesda didn’t dare to sell us a Season Pass because they knew their DLC for Skyrim would come out erratically. As it did.
Promising DLC means sticking to that promise and delivering on time and consistently. It’s been four months since I played BioShock: Infinite… I’m still waiting.
On the other hand, let’s look at Gearbox who, granted have not been having the best of years, but have been consistently and effectively churning out DLC after great DLC and their best surprise was that the Season Pass they offered did not cover the entirety of their DLC component, with more DLC on its way now that their Season Pass quota has been filled. Changes to the game’s mechanics aside, it’s been great to have this much content delivered to players. It’s almost a year now, since Borderlands 2 released, and there are people still playing it and discovering new things.
Now again we come to the other side of the coin, which is that I’ve purchased four of the five available DLC packs for Borderlands 2, and I’ve paid less than the price of the Season Pass, which promised exactly that much of a saving.
How? Well, I guess I owe a lot to the recent Ultimate Game Sale on Xbox LIVE (and they say Microsoft don’t care about gamers) because they practically gave away some games and DLC packs; but more to the point: I was a prudent purchaser who waited until there was a sale. (Or: Indian.)
What’s the fuss about, then? How is this at all relevant? Well, consider that if you purchased the Season Pass, sure enough you got DLC to keep you going across the past nearly-a-year, in decent chunks, but your last DLC would have only released last month, thus your Season Pass would have only been fulfilled last month, and what if you were waiting for all of the DLC to come out (and the level cap to get increased, of course) in order to play any of it?
Well then you might as well have waited for a sale…
The thing about Season Passes is that they’re a great way of pre-ordering DLC but you are effectively buying into a developer’s promises and you are then at their mercy. If, for example, you purchase a Season Pass which promises four DLC packs and three of those are map packs with just one story DLC (looking at you, Gears of War 3) then you’re probably going to feel a little cheated because they didn’t tell you all of this in sufficient detail from the get-go. However later on, now that you’ve seen what’s available, you still have the option of purchasing a Season Pass for that bundled discount or extra perks, or you could benefit from sales and reduced pricing for content.
So I’ll ask again: When it comes to DLC, what sways your purchasing decision?
Do you want more of the game you’re playing, immediately? Are you just a person who wants to experience everything a game has to offer? Are you the curious type who wants to see what else the developers can do? Would you enjoy a larger, expanded experience in your game? Do you hope to some day pick up the game again and play it with some fresh content? Or do you just want to support the developers?
Maybe it’s something else, entirely. All I know is, I wanted to support Irrational when I bought the Season Pass; my first purchase of such. It was me convincing myself that I was going to hold on to my copy of BioShock: Infinite for a while longer. It was an expression of desire to experience more of this world of Columbia. And I’m still waiting…
Meanwhile, there have been some epic sales on Xbox LIVE which I could have used those Magical Sexy Points on instead, and then just purchased the Season Pass when they have something to show — now, for example.
I missed out because I committed. This totally isn’t me dissuading you all from having real romantic relationships or anything, I promise. But it does seem to speak for itself, doesn’t it? Think before you commit.