Opinion: More Companies Should Follow Titanfall 2's Season Pass-Free Model

by Robert Workman


It seems that we’re seeing a slight change in the landscape here in the video game industry – the season pass not being as widely used as it was before. Sure, some companies still use it like crazy, such as Microsoft and Ubisoft with a variety of their products, but others seem to find value in the game themselves, and have a business mantra that seems to be leaning more in the favor of gamers.

That said, the season pass likely won’t go away – some companies will still see it as an ideal practice and charge $30-$50 for the additional content that the game is capable of. We’ll be seeing this for years to come, so don’t expect it to be completely eradicated.

Still, it’s hard not to take a look at Respawn Entertainment’s example with Titanfall 2. It’s an amazing feat for a game that got pressured into a release between two of the biggest franchises on the planet, Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Many people feel that the game suffered as a result, but on the contrary – it’s become a tremendous hit with its community, and, better yet, there’s something weird happening with it. People are actually paying money for the DLC.

Yes, whereas most gamers can’t wait to complain about how much a Season Pass is going to set them back, Titanfall 2 players are happily obliging in paying a few bucks Respawn Entertainment’s way to soup up their Titan in some way, or modify their appearance a little bit. And nobody seems to be complaining about it.

So what is it about this business model that seems to be working in the company’s favor? It’s really simple – it’s not being shoved down our throats.

The introduction of a Season Pass is a way for gamers to feel like, in order to get the really good stuff for a game, they have to double down and pay an extra amount of money on top of the $60 game purchase they already made. That means they feel cheated in a sort of way, as they didn’t really buy a “complete” game as intended, even though they sort of did. Think of this as the extra toppings that go with the ice cream. You still get something sweet out of it, but there’s always the need to make it just a little sweeter.

That’s not to say the Season Pass isn’t a successful business model – it certainly is, as deluxe versions of games have proven in the past – but it also seems to hurt those that don’t necessarily have deep wallets. Imagine Timmy wanting to buy the next game on the agenda, only to have to buy some more maps for a game like, say, Infinite Warfare instead because he wants to join his friends in multiplayer. That sets him back a little bit, and he has to wait a little bit longer to buy that game for his library.

Respawn Entertainment probably saw this and wondered, “Why do we need a season pass?” Sure, it could’ve taken the Call of Duty route and charged for map packs and what not, but it didn’t really want to take away from the core appeal of its game. Plus, Respawn already knew that it had ground to make up on with the PS4 audience, since the original Titanfall only released for Xbox One and PC. On top of that, the team put a lot of effort into its single player campaign, and really wanted to put an emphasis on that.

So, imagine that – a development team that focused more on the bigger picture of the core product, instead of the content that would tie into it following its release. It’s actually a pretty smart move, and, surprise, it’s paid off in ways they didn’t expect. Players are actually buying in-game skins and other content as a way to thank Respawn – and maybe make them not feel so bad about the odd position EA put them in with Titanfall 2’s boxed-in release in late October.

By making gamers want to show appreciation for a developer instead of grunting at the idea that they have to give them money for additional content, it creates a business model that companies probably didn’t expect – and as a result, some more teams may be willing to give this practice a try.

Case in point: earlier this morning, BioWare confirmed that there will not be a Season Pass for Mass Effect: Andromeda. This is a huge decision, as the previous Mass Effect games leaned heavily on add-ons. Quality add-ons, of course – The Citadel is still amazing – but add-ons nevertheless. With this new model, BioWare is doing away with that idea in favor of focusing on the core game, and rewarding players with the experience they deserve. Of course, that doesn’t explain why the Collector’s Edition of the game is $200 and doesn’t actually include a copy of the game, but that’s another editorial for another time.


So why the change? Well, part of it could be Electronic Arts trying to make good with players again. A while back, it was named the worst company of the year several times – following business practices that left some players feeling burned. EA could’ve made some key decisions indicating that it was willing to give the non-Season Pass thing a try – not with big franchises like Battlefield 1, mind you – but at least offer some leeway to indicate that it was listening.

And now? Well, EA is good with gamers again, despite some decisions that are questionable – like, again, releasing Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 so closely together. But at least it’s gotten 2017 off on the right foot, with hype slowly building for Andromeda, some sort of title coming to the Nintendo Switch, and eventually creating a plan for sports games and Star Wars: Battlefront II, amongst other releases.

Again, that’s not to say the Season Pass will go away. It won’t. Too many companies are used to the model by now, and will continue to sell them no matter what gamers may say. It’s just part of the packaging with some games.

But I certainly hope that others start to look at Titanfall 2’s model, as Mass Effect: Andromeda has. It’s really something, asking gamers to make optional purchases in a full product, rather than demanding a heavy upend just to get the rest of it added one. It makes them feel less cheated, and creates an enthusiasm that makes them want to support the developer. That’s something they did with Respawn (and well deserved, by the way), and that’s something that will work in BioWare’s favor as well.

It’s not entirely a changing of the guard just yet, but it’s a practice that’s building momentum – and having it involved in some of the better gaming franchises on the market certainly doesn’t hurt either. Let’s see where it goes next with Andromeda, and builds from there.

Oh, and if you haven’t played Titanfall 2 just yet, FIX THAT. It’s amazing.

By Robert Workman

Robert Workman has spent years working in the video game industry, for sites like Shacknews, AOL GameDaily and Marooners Rock. He's also very skilled in contributing to podcasts and video broadcasts, and can pretty much out-game you under the table. Oh, and just go ahead and ask him about glorious craft beers. Go on, ask him.