I’m sure a lot of you have noticed that more games are adopting the Season Pass model for DLC distribution. In case you haven’t, a quick rundown of the scheme is that you pay a fixed sum (say $40), and this gets you full access to all the predetermined DLC releases for the time period (season) they have given, which will be available on release for a higher price. The first game to implement this was Red Faction: Guerrilla with it’s 3-pack, scheduled DLC in 2009, though it wasn’t called a Season Pass then. The player bought a three pack of DLC that would be released after the game, even though there were little to no details about the later two DLC’s. This is what really has me worried about the Season Pass DLC model. You are buying these things on faith.
Most of the information that I can find that relates to the Borderlands 2 Season Pass DLC is that it “is big DLC stuff,” as in pertaining to a narrative that expands the story. Notice the date on the article is after the Borderlands 2 release. It’s good to hear that they are trying to give as much product as they can for the price you pay, but there is little to no information about the latter DLCs. You are really having to trust Gearbox on this one, and while it may be pretty safe to bet on them coming out with some worthwhile DLC, Gearbox isn’t the only company implementing this style.
The first game that really put this scheme on my radar was Battlefield 3, published by Electronic Arts and developed by DICE. Ironically, my only brush with DLC has been with DICE’s Mirror’s Edge, and I would say that those maps were worth it. I don’t know how much I trust a “tactical” shooter with providing DLC that is anything more than map packs. Battlefield 3′s website is advertising “20 new maps, 20 new weapons, 10+ new vehicles, 4+ game modes, 30+ assignments, 20+ dog tags, and more,” where more is basically just adding on statistic tracking and some “exclusive in-game weapons.” At first I thought that assignments were something similar to the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 Spec Ops missions, but I have come to find out that they are simply achievements that you unlock that then unlock your DLC guns. I don’t give a damn about the series and that made me mad ass hell. That’s like paying for a hamburger at McDonalds and then having to work a shift to get the hamburger. The fact that people support this is baffling to me. This season pass costs you $49.99, and still very little has been released about the final DLC piece “End Game.” Hell a release date isn’t even set. Why should I trust them?
There are very few developers that I would trust to just give money with no idea as to what they are going to make and just hope that they will create something worth the money I gave them. CD Projekt RED, maybe Valve, some of the Kickstarter games I’ve backed have been worth while, though Kickstarter is a completely different topic. Just looking at Battlefield 3′s DLC, I wouldn’t pay for it. You are paying a whole extra $50, almost the cost of the original game, and for a fraction of a game. It’s a large fraction, I’ll give them that it’s a pretty big fraction, but the game’s contents is pretty meager to begin with, and the DLC for a game probably shouldn’t constitutes a majority of the game.
This Season Pass DLC is very similar to Kickstarter. You get a pitch from a company about something that they are developing, and you have to make the decision on whether you trust them or not. The main difference is that you aren’t deciding whether this gets made or not, it will get made, and you will be able to buy it. There’s another part of it, however. You don’t have to worry about whether that person will deliver or not after they get your money. Season Pass DLC is very similar to a Kickstarter project with similar trade offs. The differences are that the prices are fixed, and there is less risk involved, though it costs more for Season Pass DLC. In a perfect world this is an excellent system, but it isn’t a perfect world. EA sells $50 DLC that comes down to extra maps, vehicles, and guns, Activision charges for stat tracking, and Microsoft chargers for internet connectivity for the Xbox. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you trust these companies, but I don’t.