By Bryan Smith on October 4, 2015 at 7:09pm
Well it seems that season passes are littering the place lately, haven’t they? Everywhere you turn there’s another season pass lingering or a company announcing one. This year alone, games that had one include “Mortal Kombat X,” “Call of Duty: Black Ops III,” “Evolve,” “Batman: Arkham Knight,” and most recently “Rise of the Tomb Raider.” Most of these, if not all of the ones shown as examples, haven’t revealed what the content is prior to announcing that there is a season pass. With that, it perfectly goes with the nickname “mystery box.”
For those who aren’t familiar with “Family Guy,” the comedy TV series, there was an early season episode that has Peter and Lois Griffin suffering through a real estate talk to get a free boat. However, the businessman offers them two options: a boat (which they both want) or what’s inside the mystery box. Anything could be in the mystery box.
A boat's a boat, but a mystery box could be anything. It could even be a boat.
Instead of taking the boat, Peter takes the mystery box… which turns out to be tickets to a stand-up comedian’s show.... which no one is wanted. So you’d think that would be the worst part of the analogy there, wouldn’t it? Wrong. The worst part is when Peter and Lois have the option to get the boat or the mystery box (relatively) for free, the mystery box season passes are not free. You have to pay for them.
How to Do a Season Pass Right
So the first reaction to season passes would be they are completely evil. Where I may be inclined to say you’re 90% correct, there are a few examples of season passes being in the right. Take “Mario Kart 8” and “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” for example. In case of “Mario Kart 8,” the season pass, a relatively decent priced one at that, was announced after the core game released. Two packs of content that wasn’t held from the game when it first released. In other words, if there should/must be a season pass, announce it after the fact and say that’s in the works. That way, the core game can release without problems (looking at you “Arkham Knight”) and people can enjoy a full game with some content afterwards that didn’t feel stripped from the whole thing.
The second case is with “The Witcher 3,” or in most scenarios RPG games. While there was a season pass announced a bit before the game released, a month about, the game has more than enough content to begin with that extra content feels more like an expansion than a season pass. It’s also still in development, which helps the game on that front.
RPGs are the one genre of gaming that I feel that season passes, whether the content is announced a little before or after the fact, is “acceptable” if there has to be one. Granted, not all RPGs fit the rule, as the case with the “Borderlands” series having a butt load of DLC and “Destiny” is… well, not exactly living up to its hype. Take Bethesda games for example. You can argue that they are buggy upon release, but there’s huge amount content in their games that additional DLC would add up less than 5% of the entire package. I hear from friends that they’re struggling to get everything done in “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” since there’s so much to do. The work going into a RPG is no laughing matter. Once… if you get done with the game, then there’s more content if you want it. I think that is relatively fair. That’s also why “Fallout 4” isn’t as bad of a situation as one would think… assuming that “Fallout 4” turns out as intended.
The Dangers of the Mystery Box Season Pass
The most dangerous factor of season passes that haven’t yet been stated is that their content is the mystery element of it all. Let’s poke more fun at “Batman: Arkham Knight.” With a season pass with “six months of content” priced at $40, one would think that that’s a lot of content. Some of said content is actually Day-1 DLC that you can get if you didn’t pre-order the game. As noted by other gaming websites, you’re not missing anything if you skip on the season pass. Harley Quinn, Red Hood, Batgirl, and Nightwing’s story segments are rather short and not worth paying money yet. Keep in mind; all of this content was released shortly, if not on the day, of the game’s release. Seems a little too soon for DLC to be released for a game that released rather… poorly in terms of performance. That’s not even counting what else is left in the mystery box season pass. For all we know, there may be a “what-if” scenario where you play as Joker destroying Gotham or another segment where Damien comes in to have a story mission shorter than Harley Quinn’s.
Warner Bros. is notorious with season passes in general. It turns out that “Mortal Kombat X’s” season pass, the Kombat Pass, doesn’t include all of the content available. There are some skins and even another DLC character, Goro, not included in the pass. Granted, he was a pre-order incentive, but for others you have to pay for him in addition. That’s not even considering that there are probably more DLC characters coming with another season pass, as teased by Ed Boon and WB. Two mystery boxes! How fun…
We have nine DLC characters, as seen with the Kombat Pass #2. With some basic math, we have 24 characters on launch, 5 additional characters as DLC, plus another 4 after that- not including any more DLC following… 33 characters all together. 9 characters out of 33 gives us… about 27% of the roster as DLC. That’s a sizeable amount of content left out, excluding the costume skins and microtransaction purchases.
Let’s compare, shall we, to “Super Smash Bros.” for Wii U/3DS- a common game where fans want to see DLC fighters (also excluding costumes for Miis… which I shall not defend). So far, we have 4 characters slowly approaching the year-one anniversary for the game. 4 out of 51 characters is… 7% of the roster. Like I said, “Smash” is close to its year-one anniversary… where “Mortal Kombat X” is roughly 5-6 months old. Quite a bit of content missing out for season passes so early on…
Pivotal Single-Player Stuff Missing
A season pass with content to release Day-1 with single-player content is very damaging. Take a look at “Mass Effect 3” and the squad mate/story segment cut for Day-1 DLC. Another reason why RPGs are (relatively) better with season passes is because single-player content pivotal to the story or overall gameplay isn’t stripped away… assuming it doesn’t release said season pass content on the release date.
We’re going to take another jab at poor Lara Croft again with the recent news of “Rise of the Tomb Raider” having a season pass. You may recall my article a while back saying how the timed exclusivity of this game was a bad idea, with the time allotted to the game’s development (supposedly) being shorter than before so Microsoft can “attempt” to compete with Sony. Now that there’s a season pass, that brings two alarming signs for “Rise of the Tomb Raider.”
Firstly, and hitting home with the mystery box theme, is that we don’t even know what this single-player content is that is not available in the core game. We simply don’t know what the season pass means when it says “content that will extend your single-player campaign.” Will it be more content for Lara Croft to explore some tombs for fun or will it be cut content from the story? We don’t know until A) the game is out and B) when Microsoft points out what the pass includes.
Secondly is that the release date reportedly (though not confirmed yet) for the season pass is the day the game releases- November 10, 2015. A season pass that releases content on Day-1 for a game, which makes “Rise of the Tomb Raider” a $90 game from the offset if you want all the single-player content. Granted, we don’t know if the season pass will release on the same day, but Microsoft nor Square Enix hasn’t stated otherwise as of this writing. That also means that the season pass, if the release date is anything to go off of, is now taking the development time out of the actual game and is placing the work on the season pass content. Time being taken away from the game for a mystery box season pass spells bad news; as if what I predicted about this game before wasn’t enough.
Why Skipping on Season Passes Is a Good Practice
So why should you pass on a season pass or game that’s touting one? Heck, why at all even if the content of the mystery box is revealed? That’s a simple answer- Game of the Year/Definitive Editions exist. All of that content you missed out on is now on the disc or bundled into a digital code at a moderately affordable price. A game originally costing $100 to get everything now comes packaged nicely in a $40-$60 product or even cheaper. Better yet is that updates should exist so the bugs and problems are fixed. If you know a game will have a mystery box season pass, or has one before the game’s release to begin with, it’s a good idea to not buy the game until a complete edition comes out.
Now what games you skip on is dependent on what is more valuable for you. A game like “Mario Kart 8,” with the DLC, will cost less than $80 that includes everything. You also can’t get a disc with the DLC unless you get a bundle console. A game like “Batman: Arkham Knight” as of right now will cost at least $100 for all the content its releasing (assuming any of it is worthwhile and doesn’t have addition content following outside the season pass) and will most likely be put into a Game of the Year Edition like “Arkham City” had before it. “Mortal Kombat (2011)” and “Injustice: Gods Among Us” are no different.
That leads me to this closing question- if a game has a mystery box season pass, is the game and content worth buying for you? Is that decision based on how good the game is alone or on principle of the matter of season passes?