Over the past year, many triple-A titles such as Assassin’s Creed III, Black-Ops II, Borderlands II, and Quantum Conundrum have released with a DLC Season Pass included. These ‘season passes’ allow for the download of multiple pieces of DLC after the initial release of the game without forcing the consumer to buy the extra DLC if they want it. There are several different issues surrounding the season pass concept—it shouldn’t be surprising, since it encourages developers to create DLC, after all—but in the end, and despite their downsides, season passes allow for the growth of the games industry and they benefit developers, publishers, and gamers alike. Here’s why.
As it stands, DLC contributes a lot to the game industry by itself. The purchase of season passes ensures that new DLC will be created for the game, and therefore ensures the continued success and development cycle of the game. Without season passes, the manufacture of DLC is almost as risky as developing a new game—publishers can never be sure whether or not gamers will buy the DLC or ignore it when it is released. By introducing season passes, not only are the publishers sure that they have a consumer base for the DLC, but they also have a sizable income already generated off of the DLC.
The more comfortable publishers are to publish extra content for games, the more likely developers are to be able to add on to the game that they lovingly crafted. Let’s be honest, reading the epilogue of the story or watching the resolution of a movie is one of the best parts of the entertainment experience. Although DLC does not initially come with a game package, that does not mean it is any less rewarding. Season passes enable developers to tell parts of the story they couldn’t initially get funding for—and it shows that there’s a broad audience interested in continuing the story before they’ve even experienced it.
Of course, not all developers release season passes with these good intentions in mind. In the end, the games industry is just that—an industry. Anything that encourages the growth of the industry will be emphasized, and since season passes encourage DLC and continued revenue from a game, they aren’t likely to exit the scene any time soon. It’s unfortunate that some of the passes are incredibly expensive and only offer a portion of the total planned DLC—and it’s even more unfortunate when some of the ‘unlocked’ DLC was available on the game disc from day one.
Many of the customers who purchase season passes would prefer to get any day-one DLC included with the game, rather than paying extra for it, but in the end the games industry (like many others) funnels down to one aspect: money. Because developers have to deal with fixed budgets and time limits, not all of the content that they want to publish can be created, and the extra income from the season passes only helps those developers to perfect the game and deliver a complete package to gamers. As time goes on, season passes will hopefully be used to test the waters on continuing a game, rather than a quick grab for money.