I hate Season Passes, and so should you.
The past week of exclusivity chatter has been rife with points made about anti-consumer practices, but Season Passes are perhaps the worst, most vile form of cash bleeding. They are the greatest achievement of anti-consumer pre-order culture, managing to convince people to pay for content that hasn't even been announced for games that aren't even out.
The latest game to announce a Season Pass is Warner Bros' Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, but there's a slight difference with this one. Not only will snapping up a Season Pass that costs almost as much as the game net you all of the vague DLC that is to come following the game's release later this year, but you'll actually get the full version of the game on release with some nice day one DLC.
Yep, that's right. It's a combination of two of the things we hate most: an unholy union of Season Pass and Day One DLC.
For balance's sake, here's the official blurb, just in case we've misread anything (their emphasis):
The Season Pass includes:
Exclusive ‘Guardians of the Flaming Eye’ Orc Warband mission
- Players will face Sauron’s elite Defenders before the Black Gate and earn the Rising Flame rune
Early access to the ‘Trials of War’ challenge series
- Players will test their skills against select legions of Sauron’s forces in this series of challenge modes and build their legend as gamers post their best score on the Challenge Leaderboard
All new story missions with hours of gameplay
- Lord of the Hunt – Hunt the wild beasts of Mordor as player’s discover hidden lairs, earn unique runes and face off against powerful monsters
- The Bright Lord – Play as Celebrimbor, the great Elven smith of the Second Age, and battle against Sauron and the might of his forces
Access to future content
- Including runes, skins and additional future add-on content.
So we have an iconic mission available at launch, snipped off of the top there, it would seem, and stuck behind the Season Pass paywall; we have two named subsequent bits of story-based DLC for a game that's not out yet; and we have a bunch of unannounced content because, well, a Season Pass includes speculative content. That people are willing to pay for upfront. For some reason.
"But what about if you know that you're going to buy all of the DLC already, Matt?"
You're an idiot and I can't help you.
But what's the best way of making a Season Pass filled with vague content of unproven quality seem vaguely attractive apart from relatively meaningless price numbers and talk of "savings"? Well, you chop bits off of the full game and pretend Season pass buyers are getting extra, bonus things at launch.
Simply put, you hold gamers to ransom. Yay.
Day One DLC is one of the most shady, anti-consumer practices out there. We hate it. It ferments distrust between content creators and their audiences. It suggests that things have been held back, that the "full" game you buy on launch day isn't actually the complete product. It makes a mockery of value propositions, particularly when there are visible examples of other projects where devs are working on polishing and preparing right up until release. Day One patches are commonplace, suggesting that there's always room for a little more improvement. Day One DLC basically constitutes a corporate cockslap for consumers.
Before you bring up Telltale, it's worth noting that their games follow an episodic model that's announced from the start. A Season Pass for a Telltale game is tantamount to buying a game at full price, not buying a game for full price and then buying essentially another game for that game for close to full price and argh my head hurts.
Day One DLC sucks.
Season Passes for non-franchise games suck. COD and FIFA Season Passes are also lamentable, but at least you know what you're getting into there.
Mashing two wrongs together doesn't make a right. It makes for a dangerous new amalgam of anti-consumer bullshit. Nobody tell EA.