The multiplayer season pass is almost dead, this is how For Honor and Titanfall 2 are killing it

For Honor's developers plan to release all of the game's post-release multiplayer maps and modes for free, following more than a year of high-profile games that have abandoned the once-common paid DLC format. If you play many big, non-free-to-play multiplayer games, this development likely feels long overdue for you, and doubly so for your wallet.

Titanfall 2, Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch, and Gears of War 4 have all taken a similar angle. The latest scions of the two big shooter series, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1, persist in parceling out paid map packs on top of their full game price, but clearly the times are a-changin' - I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last year for both of their usual passes as we know them.

It's a welcome sea change for multiplayer gaming, and the reason couldn't be simpler.

Never split the party

"We don't want to split the community," For Honor game director Damien Kieken explained at a recent presentation attended by Eurogamer. "So everything that's matchmade [including] new modes and new maps, will be given for free to the players."

That's it. Not maps, not modes, not pot leaf paint jobs for your assault rifle, but other players are the single most important piece of content for any multiplayer game. No matter how cool the DLC is, dividing the matchmaking pool into camps of "Season Pass Owners," "Map Pack 1 Owners," "Vanilla Game Only Owners," and so on makes the game worse for everyone. Kind of incredible that it was the standard for so long, if you think about it.

Titanfall 2 producer Drew McCoy told us back in June that eschewing exclusive maps and avoiding that split was important to build trust. For reference, the first Titanfall had a typical map pass system and that contributed to ongoing matchmaking troubles once the player base waned.

“We need to trust the player and they need to trust us,” McCoy said. “Trust that if we do the right thing - not sell maps and modes - we’ll get more people investing with us, investing in the game as a whole. They’re going to trust us not to screw them over and they can be happy with their $60 versions”.

That doesn't mean multiplayer games just want to take your $60 and to leave it at that, of course. They're just finding smarter, less-disruptive ways to get extra cash out of you.

So many loot boxes

Titanfall 2 got an updated version of the first game's Angel City as free DLC a few weeks ago, but the very same update also added an in-game store for "cosmetic" goods like skins for your pilot and camo for your weapons. Meanwhile, Gears of War 4 still gives you a certain kind of exclusive access to DLC maps via its season pass, but if you don't care about playing them early or in private matches, it doesn't really matter.

Overwatch sells the same loot boxes full of sweet, sweet character skins and highlight intros that players can also earn by leveling up. For Honor will let players buy extra "Steel" so they can craft better weapons faster, but only after unlocking access to them through the standard progression system. In other words, spending extra money will definitely still get you where you want to be faster in many big multiplayer games.

But whether you drop piles of extra cash on kitting out your soldier with the perfect set of camouflage and customized weaponry, or you keep your credit card number far away from the "Buy Now" button, you'll still get to play with everybody else. And that's a massive improvement on the old model.

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Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.