Are Fallout 4 and Witcher III a turning point for Season Passes?

Season Passes have become the scourge of games in recent years. We’re not opposed to additional content for games, far from it. But when the cost of a Season Pass matches that of a full game, our alarm bells start to ring. What’s worse, so many of these passes offer a paltry amount of content that simply doesn’t justify the price.

Consider that Season Passes often stick to their high price long after the main game can be bought for a fraction of the original cost a few months after release and the farce becomes even more laughable.

There are signs of encouragement though. Signs that a balance can be struck for developers and publishers making extra dough and so gamers can come away with good value for money. Right now, we’re looking at CD Projekt Red (The Witcher III: Wild Hunt) and Bethesda (Fallout 4) as high-profile candidates to show the rest how it’s done.

That’s a big claim, especially as their Season Pass content hasn’t even been released yet. But it’s pretty damn easy to see why I’m able to write about yet more season pass updates, but in a positive light rather than a rant about publisher greed. It’s all about the price.

On consoles, you can preorder a Season Pass for The Witcher III for £19.99. This includes two expansions, the first of which, Hearts of Stone, is set to land in October and will apparently last about 10 hours. The second part of the Season Pass, Blood and Wine, will be coming early next year and is reported to be a 20-hour piece. 30 hours of game, for £20, that sounds like good value to us.

You don’t even have to buy the pass, you could opt for a cautious preorder purchase of the first part for just £6.79 on PSN right now (we’re not sure how much the next part will cost or if the Season Pass actually offers a saving). CD Projekt Red’s price for such a large amount of extra content frankly puts other publishers to shame. Batman: Arkham Knight’s Season Pass is now more expensive than the game at £32.99? And for what? Some brief story DLC, characters skins and some Batmobile races? We’re good thanks. Actually, you could spend that money on Blu-rays of all seven Batman movies and they’d last longer.

The Call of Duty and Battlefield series are no saints in regards to the pricing of their DLC drops either. Oh, look you’ve included one of the maps from an older game, aren’t we so lucky? Fortunately for those guys, Destiny is a much easier target. Been a loyal player since buying the starter pack (sorry, original £40 game)? Chances are you paid an additional £40 for the first Season Pass with the two laughably sized expansions and are now faced with another £40 purchase for The Taken King DLC. So, about £120 for a game that’s finally looking like a full-sized effort?

Here’s the real kicker though. Activision are re-releasing Destiny in stores at £40 (we’ve seen it for £35) bundled with the main game, the original expansions and The Taken King. This is great if you’ve never played the game, but have been looking for a cheaper way in to the full experience. I’ll admit, as a player that only had the base game before selling it -I was getting annoyed at the Light Levels XP system (now abolished) and the dearth of included content- I’m tempted to go back. It’s a disgraceful kick in the teeth for loyal players though and no amount of emblem/free rifle tat is going to make up for it.

Destiny’s a sore point for Season Pass angst for me and I imagine many others, because that main game is so short and reliant on recycling maps and fetch quests. But I don’t have the same concerns with The Witcher III or Fallout 4.

The Witcher III is huge and unless I’m reviewing it, I may not even have to bother with the Season Pass expansions, as I already feel like I have a complete experience. That said, with news of the imminent arrival of Hearts of Stone, I’ve been playing the game again this week and beefing Geralt up to Level 30, just in-case.

I imagine Fallout 4 is going to be a similar setup. The main game is going to be huge as evidenced by Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas (and Skyrim). Years ago, I reviewed every piece of Fallout 3 content on PS3 and it was a terrible experience. As much as I loved the game, some of the DLC was just fucked. One of them went through a phase of crashing every ten feet. The developers had a rough time working on the PS3 and it took them ages to get the Skyrim DLC fit enough for release, so quality control is a bigger concern for me with Fallout’s DLC to be honest. That said, developers are having a much easier time working with the current generation of hardware.

Again though, price is hugely important. When the pass was announced this week, I fully expected it be £40. But no, it’s only around £20 (only the $30 US price has been confirmed). The content hasn’t even been designed yet, but if they’re going to have three or four expansions again, that sounds like great value. And don’t worry, the updates like new animations, patches and the inclusion of mod modes won’t be parts of the paid pass, they’ll come for free.

While I’m sure you’ll be able to preorder the Season Pass around Fallout 4’s launch, you shouldn’t feel any need to do so and the same goes for The Witcher’s. Seeing as the price will be locked for a while on consoles (as with most digital passes), there’s no reason to not wait for a few reviews or wait until you’ve bled the main game dry.

So, let’s sum up. Season Passes can be a great way to extend games we want to keep, but don’t make us pay the full price again (or more!) to get a meagre morsel of extra content. Gamers deserve better. Price it right and tell us about the content as soon as you can and we’re much more likely to not trade the game in and give you a bit more money for some extra hours of play. Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3 are set to be two of the year’s best-selling games and the fact they can charge so little for their Season Passes with so much extra content is a sign that other studios need to get their act together.

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