The Somewhat Disappointing Promise of DLC Season Passes
In 2011 Rockstar games (L.A. Noir) and Warner Bros Interactive (Mortal Kombat), began selling a bundle of DLC for future content at a discounted rate. This is now commonly referred to as a season pass, and has become a popular trend within the video game publishing community. The issue with these offers is that when announcing season passes, publishers do not share what those passes will include. They promise certain things but, without detail, are not really giving the gamer much reason to buy something that is a secret until it is released. This has become apparent in many recent games, and has left many gamers disappointed in the release schedule and quality of DLC being offered.
Injustice: Gods Among Us, which has gotten very favorable reviews, is such a case.
The backlash from the addition of Scorpion, originally a Mortal Kombat character has begun to circulate within professional gaming circles. Gamers that compete in Evolution Championship Series, more commonly known as EVO, have asked for him to be banned from being used as a fighter in the July 2013 event.
The complaint is that Scorpion does not play the same as the rest of the DC fighters in the game and would give an advantage to players using him and should not have been a DLC character seeing as he does not belong to any DC comic. I'm sure people buying the season pass were expecting to see 4 DC characters when shelling out the $14.99. The slot would have been better used on any number of super heroes or villains within the DC Universe. I'm sure most people would have rather seen someone obscure, like Booster Gold or the Blue Beetle rather than Scorpion. If that was what they would have wanted to see they would have bought Mortal Kombat.
Another major issue with season passes is release dates and delay.
With the announcement of next gen consoles and their lack of backwards compatibility, some gamers who otherwise would have used their current-gens for trade in to the PS4 or Xbox One, may have to hold on until season passes have completed or be out the money they have already invested. BioShock Infinite, also favorably reviewed, announced a $30 season pass that could be purchased on the day of release. As of today there has been no DLC available. Ken Levine has said the reveal will be in late July. The game was released on March 26th, 2012. Should a gamer have to wait 4 months just to hear the announcement that a reveal is upcoming? If anything gamers should have been rewarded for their commitment to the game much sooner.
Not to say all have been bad.
Episodic season passes from companies such as TellTale Games (The Walking Dead), have been a success. Games such as the Borderland series have done well to push more content to their customers as well. Though it does take time, the Call of Duty series tends to at least keep gamers informed of the progress of their DLC to keep them appeased. Finally, the alternate universe that was added to the Assassins Creed III series (The Tyranny of King Washington), in 3 episodes, came out within a reasonable time frame, and kept us within that franchise.
I hope with time season passes can be something gamers look forward to purchasing. When expanding a game companies should focus on that world and not add regurgitation of past characters from other properties within that company. We want new and fulfilling experiences for the games we buy. Consistency and some form of standard should be applied by all publishers so gamers do not feel abandoned. I am optimistic that with time season passes will be something to look forward to and not something that brings dread and hesitation.