For much of the past decade, Freemium (a coat rack from ‘free’ and ‘premium’) games have enjoyed phenomenal popularity due to their development in tandem with the rise of smartphone app ecosystems. Yet despite their success, many developers have looked for alternative ways to monetize their new games due to some negative associations that have developed around freemium titles. Freemium games, which typically place certain features or elements of a game behind a pay wall, can suffer from poor implementation resulting in a frustrating experience for players. This ultimately discourages a potential customer from feeling motivated to pay for full access to a game. It is for this reason that other models have seen a surge in popularity in recent years.
Alternatives to the freemium model include the mainstay of gambling incentives: the promotional offer. These range from free trials and open beta, as evidenced by EA’s recent launch of the dodgeball multiplayer game, Knock-out City, to the world of iGaming and online casinos, where it’s common to find welcoming offers such as a $ 20 no deposit bonus on slot machine titles. The truth is, there is no single monetization model that makes sense for every type of game, as different modes of engagement and styles of play require different fundraising strategies. When it comes to certain types of modern multiplayer games, the concept of the battle pass has become the preferred strategy, for the reasons we will outline below.
Origins and development
Battle Passes, also known as Season Passes, first became popular in the world of Massive Multiplayer Online Battle Royale games, such as PUBG and Fortnite. PUBG, short for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, was a game built on the DayZ engine and is home to an active community of 16 million daily gamers worldwide and 34 million registered users. PUBG, like Fortnite, is free for everyone, although players can choose to purchase a Battle / Season Pass to unlock optional extras. Nowhere has the success of this model been more apparent than with Epic Games’ hugely successful game, Fortnite. Although free, Fortnite earned nearly $ 9 billion in microtransaction sales through its battle pass model.
Big name studios
Now the big game studios, such as Activision (Call of Duty) and 343 Guilty Spark (Halo) get on the bandwagon. As games get bigger, more complex, and more difficult to manufacture, they also get more expensive for customers. The big game studios have been trying to find a way to keep making money on games as they get older to better recoup development costs. This is the reason for the growth in popularity of DLC (downloadable content), aftermarket expansion packs that can be purchased in order to access new weapons, game mechanics or levels. While this is beneficial for developers, creating DLCs is almost as expensive and time consuming as developing entire games. This is where Battle Passes come in, as developers can easily create a constant flow of content to reward players for progressing their Battle Passes and in some cases charge users the cost of a Battle Pass for. each successive playing season. Call of Duty: Warzone, released in 2020, is a standalone arena shooter in the Call of Duty series that uses a battle pass model to generate funds through microtransactions. With the addition of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare microtransaction sales, Activision made over $ 500 million in a single year. Now, Halo: Infinite, the latest title in Xbox’s long-running FPS series, plans to offer its free-to-play multiplayer segment with its own battle pass model. Elsewhere, Square Enix, the developers behind Final Fantasy RPGs, are set to release their own battle royale game in Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier.