Battlefield 1 and Why Season Passes Need to Die

With No Man’s Sky having caused many to finally reevaluate their stance on the futile exercise of pre-ordering games ahead of launch, it’s now time to take a look at upcoming FPS/internet darling Battlefield 1 and, more specifically, EA’s continued rifling through our collective back pockets when it comes to season passes and microtransactions.

It has been announced today that the Battlefield 1 season pass, titled the “Premium Pass” by EA in an attempt to make it seem more worthy of its extortionate asking price, will be sold for $49.99. According to its description on Origin, the season pass will allow players to “get two-week early access to new multiplayer maps, armies and more in four themed digital expansion packs.” This is on top of the microtransactions that will already be present in the game, as confirmed by EA CEO Andrew Wilson, who said that these “micro-monetization opportunities” aren’t intended to make the game pay-to-win, but are instead an example of EA seeking to “provide value to the gamer in terms of extending or enhancing their experience.” The microtransactions will come in the form of Battlepacks, which were featured in both Battlefield 4 and Battlefield: Hardline. This means that when all’s said and done, if players want to get the “full” Battlefield 1 experience then they’re expected to pay $60 for the game and $50 for the season pass, along with a sprinkling of microtransactions if they see fit. All in all that’s a package of over $100, and that’s before the game has even been bloody released.

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An EA exec, dealing with a customer who wants to see what they’re buying before they throw down their cash.

The inherent issue with questioning the pricing of a season pass is that the content included in it hasn’t been released, something which is routinely hammered home by the publishers shilling them. Prior to a game’s launch we always hear that its overpriced season pass offers “incredible value for money,” convincing us to throw down a significant wedge of cash for extra content in a game we haven’t even got the chance to play yet. Any complaints about the pricing will be brushed off, complete with the caveat that this particular season pass will somehow be different, and that the length of time and effort invested in it by the developers of its map packs somehow means that we should feel validated in forking out the price of a full retail release for them. We can’t judge the map packs because we haven’t played them, we’re told, despite no season pass in the history of season passes having been worth $50 thus far.

Season passes are an industry standard when it comes to triple-A games, but EA in particular have overvalued them so much that it’s now rarely deemed a talking point. The ridiculously over-the-top pricing of Battlefield 1 isn’t an anomaly by any stretch of the imagination, with the company having offered a similar deal for the divisive Star Wars Battlefront, a game so light on content at release that its map packs didn’t feel like “expansions,” but rather efforts to transform it into a game worthy of its initial asking price. Unfortunately, players were asked to part with an extra $50 in order to do so.

If you’re spending $60 on a video game, you shouldn’t feel compelled to spend another $50 to get the full experience. But even if that isn’t the case with Battlefield 1 and the game is robust enough without the extra expansions, the season pass still provides those who purchase it with a distinct advantage by virtue of them coughing up their dough up front, granting them two weeks of early access to the game’s new maps for forking out for extra content despite them not knowing what that content will entail. This means that even if you are interested in purchasing the expansions but, as a reasonably minded person, you were planning on waiting to see what those expansions will include before you threw down $50 for all of them, EA will still put you on the back foot for daring to want to see what you’ll be spending your money on before you part ways with it.

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Our $50 bill would have been worth $1,182.63 in 1914, the year World War I started. Yep.

It’s been clear for a while now that simply purchasing a game often isn’t enough, with triple-A publishers who choose not to nickle and dime their player base becoming rare to the point of extinction. However, EA’s approach to season passes is emblematic of a growing trend, in which even the purchasing of a game and all of its DLC is no longer good enough, either. If you want to play the expansions as soon as they’re made available, then you’re required to make a $50 commitment to the game in advance. Considering the hubbub surrounding the inherent pointlessness of pre-ordering video games in an age where we so frequently find ourselves being duped by pre-release marketing a la No Man’s Sky, laying down your money for both a game and its future content in one fell swoop is an incredibly questionable decision, but one that is being fervently encouraged by companies such as EA.

It’s exclusionary tactics; they’re convincing players to throw their money at them by threatening to sit them down on the naughty chair if they don’t, giving those who are less attached to their money exclusive privileges while leaving their other paying customers in the dust. A collection of multiplayer maps should not cost $50. If you’re already spending $60 on a game, then you shouldn’t feel as though you must pre-purchase its DLC in order to not be left out of the loop. As everyone’s now trying to convince themselves to never fall for the pre-order trick again, can we please do the same with season passes, too?