Listen here, battle passes are .. bullshit.
The vast majority of my youth spent playing multi-player games was spent playing both shooters and MMO games online. There is a certain amount of satisfaction gained from paying a game online and simply being better than the other person sitting at their computer playing the game against you. Some really great examples of that era are Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It was a really great, really pure shooter experience that really opened up the online FPS experience to a much larger audience. World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade is in this era, Eye of the Storm and also the classic battlegrounds maps were really pure, really involved, and really satisfying experiences.
Dota 2, Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swam, some good CoDs, Burning Crusade into Wrath – this was really a golden era for playing video games against other human beings simply for the thrill. Sure these games had various methods of progression, but they look nothing like their modern interrations. They were infinitely less expensive to play than their current iterations. They were more balanced, more fun, and less .. depressing.
Do you want to know why? Less greed. Not no greed, but certainly less greed. It’s a really sad state of affairs that we as a community are exciting by the team behind the new Halo game, 343 in developing Halo Infinite, we as a community are excited by them not screwing us over with super-aggressive microtransactions and FOMO tactics around an expiring battle pass. See, 343 are doing things a little different for their game. The battle pass is forever, it doesn’t expire, you can select what your experience will go toward. It all sounds really great, and player focused, and much less greedy than pretty much every game out or coming out.
The fact that this is so far out of the norm, that we are rallying around this decision, is a very sad statement. I think we’re all very aware the a consumer friendly experience has been dead in our industry for a very long time. And whilst 343 should be congratulated for bucking trends, and treating their game as more than a cash-cow, the fact that this is an exception rather than expectation is .. depressing.
The decline is down to a million factors, a million variables, but the underlying cause is just greed. If you want to oversimplify the problem, that’s an easy way to access the situation. In so many facets of our life, we expect the people who we interact with in a profession to care about us, whether they actually do or should. We go to the supermarket and expect everyone working their to answer our beck and call, bend over backwards for us, and do it all with a smile.
We do the same through in the fast food drive through. When we call up to buy insurance. Every facet of life we have expectations, and in some industries we even have guidelines, laws, codes of practices to ensure that industries don’t take advantage of people, and those working act in the best interest of those consuming or effected by the result. Think of financial planners, insurance agents and brokers, mortgage brokers, loan officers, and more. Both walks of life, from fast food, to financial planners. We have an expectation that we are going to interact with these people, and not feel like shit afterward, or get rorted and taken advantage of.
Unfortunately , some industries and professionals fall outside this expectation, and we get screwed. Sometimes that screwing over leads to change. Sometimes that screwing over doesn’t, and just becomes an expectation instead, or something that we just accept.
Video games fall in the latter. We expect every single game that comes out to overreach for our money, and try to screw us over financially. We expect this so much, that not screwing over the consumer has become a selling or marketing point for developers trying to gain some good faith.
I’m serious. No microtransactions is selling point now. No Fear of Missing Out battle pass is a selling point.
Now, I know that Fortnite is really low-hanging fruit for this kinda of thing. It feels like if you’re going to rant about the state of gaming, that Fornite is a really easy to subject to target. And I know those have really been done to death, and there is nothing new that I can add to that dialogue. But it needs to be clear, whilst Fornite is probably the most obvious example that everyone will be familiar with, and they do share a lion’s share of the blame for the current state of gaming, it’s important to know that they are not the pioneers we make them out to be.
Valve deserve all the good will in the world for the positive things that they’ve done for PC gaming, and gaming in general, but they really screwed the pooch when it comes to introducing the world to the popularised monetization model in the battle pass.
Ironically one of those pure experiences that I mentioned earlier is one of the first test-models for this method, of course I’m talking about the Dota TI 2013 pass and the latter iterations too. They screwed the pooch again with the Team Fortress 2 campaign pass thing, and it all went down hill from there.
That is where our low hanging fruit comes in. Fornite explodes and becomes the monolith that we know it as today, all whilst basing it’s income around the battle pass monetization method. It’s all down hill from there.
“If companies like Valve, and Epic can get away with this shit in their big IP’s, well then we can too.”
– Every developer from that point on.
And now it’s in everything. Some games supplement their free to play model with a battle pass. Some games charge you for the battle pass ontop of the cost of buying the base game. Some games charge you for the base game, the battle pass, and then cosmetics on top. Some games charge you for a battle pass, come to your house, and kick your dog.
Alright, I made that last one up. But the point is, if we’re getting excited about not getting screwed over for once, it’s probably time to stop buying this shit.
Do you remember the last time that you played a shooter game like Call of Duty that was actually about crafting an ‘easy to learn, but hard to master’ pure online competitive gaming experience. Rather than just a new shell this year, for the developer and publisher to push skins, weapons and battle pass crap down your throat. I can’t think of a recent example at all. Across everything released. Nothing.
It’s not just shooters, MMO’s have cosmetic and boosting item cash shops now. How long before we see the World of Warcraft PvP season battle pass that has better items than raid gear or some shit like that. Hell it doesn’t even have to be a multi-player game anymore. Do you remember how much of disgusting mess Middle Earth: Shadow of War was at launch? That has no player vs player. Sure you could visit other people’s fortresses, but it’s not a multiplayer game. And that was one of the worst loot-box ladden examples that I can even think of. In a singleplayer game .. yeah.
What’s the solution? Well, people will buy FIFA sports games, and seasonal shooter battle passes regardless of how expensive or insulting they are. So, waiting on the community to stop buying these things isn’t the solution regardless of how much the gaming community gets screwed over as a result. So, what is the solution?
Is chemically castrating the developers who include a battle pass in their games in the solution?
Yes it is.
Is firing them into the sun with a rocket the solution?
Yes that will work also.