We see them in everything these days. The often reviled battlepass.
Whilst they can absolutely be used as an opportunity to squeeze more income from players, and we’ve seen some terrible implementations. But for all the woes, let’s not forget the days of lootboxes and shitty microtransactions that have plagued gaming for much longer.
Honestly, I can see that the battlepass, implemented properly, has a long-term part to play in our favourite pastimes. But they can’t just be chucked out will-nilly. Let us look at the best implementations and the factors that would make the best battlepass.
Easiest one on the list. If you have a battle pass in your game, it better not cost a fortune.
I think the happy medium here is a tenner. £9.99 for a full season’s worth of content works for me. Any more and it feels like someone is taking the piss. Any less, and that’s cool. In fact, free passes with reduced rewards are great, too.
You’ll see the name Fortnite a lot here, but that’s because they’ve moulded the battlepass market to their will and made it what it is, in many many ways. I think it’s almost the best, but they have a couple of spots for improvement.
Still, it’s never more than a tenner, and if you can unlock enough in-game currency to buy the next season battlepass, you potentially only need to buy one, for years of content.
If you’re putting a battlepass in a game that cost me money to buy, you can do one. A battlepass should only ever be used in a free-to-play game. Overwatch rightly made the switch, especially being an online-only PvP game…..
PUBG tried to transition to free-to-play, which was fine, but prior to that, they were already doing an additional battlepass, as well as a cosmetic store. All of which cost too much. Pricing in PUBG is all over the place and is arguably a pretty poor example of implementation.
Free games need to be sustained. Especially when they’re a live service game. Servers need paying for, staff need paying. It’s not free-to-run.
But don’t charge me for a pass if I’ve bought your game.
I think something both Fortnite and Call of Duty are doing well now, is letting you accrue stars or tokens so you can choose which unlocks you want to get first. It’s usually level-gated still, so you can only stray so far, but you can get that currency quickly if there’s something you want in the store, or go for that sweet skin first.
It’s a little pointless because obviously, you end up with the entire pass as you go. But being given the chance to chip away at it a little in a way that feels like you have some agency over what gets unlocked, works really well.
Unlock enough currency for the next one
As mentioned above, this is an absolute must. If your battlepass has currency unlocks in it, there had bloody well better be enough to cover the cost of another battlepass. That’s how you get long-lasting engagement.
I would go so far as to say, that so long as you’re satisfying that in the minds of your players, they’ll use that currency elsewhere to feel like they’ve saved money and buy the next battlepass anyway. But…..for those of us that want to work through it, and get the next one at no cost, that’s a fantastic option and that’s how you keep your active player base going.
Only Halo Infinite seems to do this, and I understand why other games don’t (create scarcity/rarity). But having the choice of which battlepass you work on. So if a season has passed and the pass you were working on isn’t finished. That’s fine, you can just choose that one or previous ones and work on them in the current season anyway.
I really like this, because sometimes I don’t care for 80% of a new pass content. But there was a skin or armour piece or some currency I wanted to get but ran out of time. No issue, I can just go back and carry on.
The basics to get it right
I think after so long, we’ve seen some of the best examples of battlepasses, but never all in one place. PUBG doesn’t do a great job and XP requirements are too steep.
But Fortnite is a breeze and very accessible, with additional mid-season passes added regularly. Halo Infinite is similar, with the benefit of working on old passes, too. Call of Duty parrots Fortnite in a lot of ways, but the currency is too pricey.
If we took the basic Fortnite model, £10 cost, currency to earn ready for the next season, pick your unlocks. Then add the choice to unlock stuff on a past pass. I think you’re 95% there to battlepass nirvana.
Is a pass necessary? No, but if cosmetic stores leave a lot to be desired a game will live and die on those transactions. This is how you keep engagement.
Free tiers exist everywhere (and sadly additional “premium tiers”), so you’re never required to pay at all. But if you enjoy a game and get a lot of time out of it, it’s a great way to show your support!
What do you think? Are they a plague or a boon to the free-to-play model?
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