Borderlands 2 is an example of a massively hyped game that actually managed to live up to expectations. Never mind the introduction of an improved storyline, upgraded graphics, ever amusing characters and sniper rifles that actually shoot straight now, Borderlands 2 is an amazing achievement.
It has, however, joined the ranks of video games that introduce the season pass as a way of selling downloadable content. Downloadable content is a tricky subject anyway; if done correctly it can extend the life of your favourite game while adding another chapter to the story. If done poorly then you risk alienating your customers and being accused of greedily withholding content to make some extra jingle at a later date. The season pass, though, effectively gives you a choice when you first pop that shiny new disc into the tray - buy the pass and don’t worry about the hassle of paying for the DLC later.
Borderlands 2 is not the first game to introduce this system. La Noire, Call of Duty, Gears of War 3, Mortal Kombat, Darksiders 2, Max Payne and the upcoming Assassins Creed are all rocking this new concept of commercialism.
As ever with downloadable content, there are pros and cons for the buyer to consider before hitting the download button.
If, like me, you adored Borderlands 2 and will absolutely buy everything related to it, then the season pass is a great addition, providing a discount for all you loyal customers and fun loving fanatics while providing the ease of mind that you won’t have to pay for anything extra in the future.
Like all DLC, it can only be considered a success if the content is top notch. By that I mean that Borderlands 2's DLC will probably be like its predecessors, in that it will consist solely of story-based add ons. On the other hand, if say Bioware introduced the season pass for Mass Effect, I would be less enthused despite my love of the series - I have no interest in character skins or new weapons.
It’s not hard to argue that DLC offering accessories is a lot less worthwhile than extra story missions. I was never tempted to buy Thane any shiny red sunglasses, for example.
It's a system that's ripe for abuse, Call of Duty being the primary culprit. If you bought the season pass for CoD, then there was nothing to worry about, but if you couldn’t afford it but still wanted to buy one or two of the maps then the staggeringly high prices for map packs would probably freeze you out anyway. You may argue that Call of Duty's map packs were overpriced before the season pass was even introduced, and you'd have a point there to be honest. But it’s far more noticeable, now that the season pass exist, how expensive individual map packs are.
If you are unsure as to whether or not you will be purchasing the majority of a game’s DLC and ultimately choose not to buy the season pass, then you'll find that the prices for the few pieces of content that you do want to purchase are inflated due to developers cattle prodding you towards their season passes.
What have we learnt?
Downloadable content can be a great tool providing it’s used responsibly, but an infuriating one if used as a stick with which to beat a fanbase. The season pass is just the latest extension of the DLC market, and get used to it, because it's hard to see it as anything other than the tip of the iceburg.
Was the season pass designed to be a helping hand from developers to their customers to purchase DLC at a reasonable cost? Or was it an insidious ploy to further raise the cost of downloadable content even further?
The answer will vary from game to game. Nevertheless I can perhaps muse on this while I’m playing the Captain’s Booty DLC in Borderlands 2, blasting pirate midgets with a gun that shoots ‘slag’.
Gah I love Borderlands.