Battle Passes Have Almost Entirely Replaced Loot Boxes, But Are The Consumers Really Better Off?

While loot boxes might be gone, corporate greed remains eternal.

Story Highlights

  • Battle passes have been tinkered with to maximize profits for video game companies.
  • Nowadays, many of these feel like a slog to get through.
  • With FOMO tactics becoming the norm, battle passes might end up becoming worse than loot boxes. 

It wasn’t too long ago when loot boxes were the bane of every single game that you’d pick up. Players grew to hate them because of their random nature. And even government representatives took issue with, it because of how it resembled gambling. With several countries, especially in the EU taking stricter stances on them, loot boxes have almost entirely been phased out from video games. And have now been replaced with battle passes.

While battle passes go as far back as Dota 2’s opt-in “compendium” system, I think it’s fair to say that it’s Fortnite that really brought the idea to the mainstream. In theory, getting rewarded to play the game, and receiving a bunch of new cosmetics sounds like a neat idea. But as expected, companies seem to be draining every single cent from the system. And now, battle passes might be just as bad as the loot boxes they replaced. Here’s why.

They Sometimes Require An Extortionate Amount Of Time

At least with loot boxes, your rewards, while not guaranteed, were immediate. Battle passes provide you with a promise of a reward, but only if you work towards it. While having a steady stream of new items and cosmetics to enjoy as your game isn’t a bad idea on paper. The problem is that games have now made grinding through the battle passes itself a chore.

The battle pass design from Overwatch 2.
The battle pass design from Overwatch 2.

It’s no longer something enjoyable that continues to keep you engaged with tons of timely rewards. Instead, players are put on a neverending treadmill where their entire goal is to get the best rewards. Many of which are usually locked at the tail-end of the battle passes. Failure to complete the battle pass will usually result in the rewards becoming unavailable forever. This leads us to our next major problem with this system.

And That’s FOMO

FOMO, or “fear of missing out“, has almost been weaponized by the battle pass system. Most developers make the items available in battle passes exclusive to that specific season. So if by some chance you were unable to complete the battle pass, simply because you didn’t play for that season, or couldn’t put in as many hours, you’re going to be out of luck.

This fear of missing out on skins and never getting the chance to unlock them ever again allows developers to extort even more money out of the consumers. In a lot of these games where battle passes are available, players have the choice to “skip tiers” or outright buy progression for their battle pass. This allows them to easily complete it, even if they don’t have the time to play through it themselves.

Players are coming up with their own solutions to FOMO, which will sadly never be implemented.
Players are coming up with their own solutions to FOMO, which will sadly never be implemented.

Purchasing tiers can be expensive. But the worst part about this practice is that it gives developers an incentive to make their battle pass purposely long and tiresome. Their end goal then becomes to try and get people committed to completing the pass, but because of how long and drawn-out it is, eventually, folks will have to just buy the skips with more money.

From the FOMO to the drawn-out nature of this new system, all of it seems to be designed in a way to try and get people to fork over as much cash as possible. And honestly, it’s pretty sad to see that this is the state of the industry right now. I can’t say that loot boxes were objectively worse, but it’s clear that the current situation isn’t anything to write home about either.

Some Battle Passes Don’t Even Refund Your Credits

Ironically, I think the game that best handles battle passes, is the one that first popularized the idea: Fortnite. The skins you get from Fortnite’s BP are fairly high-quality. And if you manage to complete the battle pass in time, you get the amount you paid for back in the form of credits. This lets you buy the next season’s BP for free. I feel like this is a great way to reward dedicated players who are completing passes each season.

Sadly, not every developer has the same mentality. And various other battle passes, like the one in Overwatch, or Valorant, don’t provide you with enough currency to get the next season’s pass. Blizzard even had the audacity to lock new heroes behind the battle pass purchase, making it much harder for free-to-play players to compete with those who bought the BP.

I actually MISS the loot boxes
by inOverwatch

While they did eventually change this after fan outrage, it’s sad to see that this was even considered in the first place. Valorant, similarly has a pretty terrible BP system. Not only are the skins provided lackluster, compared to the ones available on the shop, but the BP is padded with a specific currency, that’s mostly only usable to unlock customization for your shop skins. 

Riot’s battle pass seems like an excuse to get people to buy its frankly, overpriced shop bundles. All in all, while battle passes aren’t as random and loot boxes, the fact that you have to work towards your rewards, and still have to deal with FOMO tactics, has made them a pain to see in just about every game that uses the system. Hopefully, developers can find a better alternative that rewards players’ time, while still making them money.

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Danish is an opinion piece writer at eXputer who loves sharing his takes on the industry. He is a long-time PC gamer with a passion for delving into the discussion and discourse surrounding the titles that he plays. Often eager to jump right into the fold and formulate his take on the latest topics, his noteworthy presence on gaming forums, and keen insight help him understand the gaming community in a thorough manner. This helps him provide a more nuanced look into any topic or discussion.

Writes Opinion Pieces at eXputer || Education: Bachelors in Mass Communication.

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