October 25, 2020

Battle passes are making me play games less, not more

Once upon a time we had loot boxes and everyone hated them, myself included. Remembered mostly as a pernicious ploy to merge gambling and gaming, it’s important to remember that they also worked—for a while, at least. That was why they were so frustrating. Chasing skins in Overwatch, or engrams in Destiny 2, it was junk food I (and many others) couldn’t stop eating. Then loot boxes ran afoul of regulation, or even the threat of regulation, and boom: no more loot boxes.

Having tabooed one form of monetization though, developers quickly moved to another. Modeled after Fortnite—hell, borrowing the name from Fortnite in many cases—we got Battle Passes. A new strategy for a new era, Battle Passes are built for games-as-a-service. They’re supposed to keep people coming back for months or even years to see what’s new.

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