If you’re not a sci-fi geek…well, I don’t know what the fuck you’re doing here if you aren’t some kind of geek, but unless you have ignored gaming news until today, you will learn that Aliens: Colonial Marines was released yesterday. The reviews are not pretty, and I’m not going to be surprised if this was Sega’s last ditch effort before filing bankruptcy in the next couple of years.
Shitty gameplay aside, one aspect of Aliens that was already receiving criticism was the announcement of a season pass, a concept still relatively new to the world of videogames but seemingly here to stay. The idea is for you to pay a set dollar amount to essentially preorder all future downloadable content for a game, usually for a reduced price than the combined a la carte pieces of DLC.
Its 2013. What’s so wrong this idea?
The concept of a “season pass” began with L.A. Noire in the beginning of 2011. Outside of the game’s major storyline, Rockstar continuously pumped out new costumes, weapons and entire cases to work on that were self-contained and did not affect the plot. You had the option of buying each case it was released or buying the “Rockstar Pass” which assured you everything that would be released for the game. Rockstar has since taken all of the content released for download and stuffed it on a disc known as L.A. Noire: The Complete Collection in case you didn’t get the chance to check out the game the first time.
The fantastic Mortal Kombat followed suit, and it wasn’t long before Activision caught wind of this and now makes it a mainstay for Call of Duty. More than twenty games have utilized this idea, and like anything new in the world of gaming, a vast amount of bitching came with it. The usual whining and raging about content that should be on disc already, greedy publishers, rabble rabble rabble!
If you need any proof that DLC is here to stay, look no further than the vast amount of content released post-retail for New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS. Regardless of what you thought of the entire game experience, there was plenty of content on the cart itself to justify the cost. Many a gamer would be satisfied by this alone, but Nintendo has embraced a modern concept (something they have been weary to do in the past) and given us more portable Mario than we can handle. The latest release came at the end of 2012 in the form of the Impossible pack, something Mario vets including myself have been craving since the Perfect Run star in Super Mario Galaxy 2 made me cry into my pillow.
NSMB2 did not offer a season pass, but you can bet your ass I would have invested my money into it. Not only has Nintendo unleashed a healthy amount of DLC for the game, they may decide to come back to it later. This is the case with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World which, years after its release, is finally getting online cooperative gameplay. I forgot I even had the game until this week, and if a season pass had been offered for it, people who purchased it before would suddenly find themselves with a brand new way to experience a great retro game at no additional cost.
While I can’t speak for every CoD release, I have to imagine if I’m hardcore about shooters that I will want as many maps as possible to break up any potential monotony. If that means dropping an extra investment on top of the money I’ve already paid to purchase the game itself, that’s my fucking decision. The ones whose pussies are bleeding over season passes are the same MacBook-toting jerkoffs who long for the days of cartridges and Game Genies. Please kill yourselves.
One aspect that gets lost on today’s “shittiest generation” is the enormous amount of pressure developers are under when crafting a game. Publishing houses who expect a game to sell twenty million copies want to hear nothing about not being able to meet a deadline, so when a certain chunk of said game is not going to make it to the release window, why not save it as a bonus for people who really enjoyed the experience?
An entirely different concept of a season pass is applied to games sold in episodic form. 2012 Game of the Year The Walking Dead was released in five parts across the year, but everyone who bought the season pass not only got more value out of their experience, they had the shared excitement of a new episode ready to be played on their hard drive the very minute it became available, not unlike a new episode of its TV counterpart.
Season passes are another strategy to get people interested in what can be an expansion of a game’s universe, and in the current market, they’re not going anywhere. This point was illustrated well by Cliff Bleszinski, former head of Epic Games who told Gamesbeat regarding Bioshock Infinite “I would start some sort of plan to have consistent DLC every quarter. However big or however small.”
Granted, Gears of War and Bioshock could not be any more different in terms of first person shooters, but Bleszinski has a point. Not only do you need to keep people invested in a game, developers and publishers will want to keep any money they can out of the hands of Gamestop, who readily offers trade-in incentives as soon as a game is released, thus putting the game in the hands of a consumer for a few bucks less than what the makers of the game charge…and subsequently earn nothing as a result.
It’s a deceptively simple concept: don’t like season passes? Don’t buy the goddamned things. Nobody is actually forcing you to purchase what is deemed extra by gaming companies, and when you make digital purchases, that cash is going directly to the game makers, ensuring that they have your thanks for cranking out a quality product.
Unless, of course, you paid $100 for the Collector’s Edition of Aliens: Colonial Marines.