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How a Longtime Zelda Fan Sees the Season Pass

This could either go very well or very poorly - we just don't have enough information yet

| Categories: Nintendo Switch, SideArc, Video Games, Wii U | 16 Comments »

Let me get this out of the way – The Legend of Zelda series is one of my all-time favorites. On top of that, Breath of the Wild is one of my most-anticipated games ever. From the original game on the NES to the most recent handheld iterations I’ve played and beaten them all; many of them multiple times. (Save for the CDi abominations, but we don’t speak of those.)

I’m also a conditional fan of DLC. As long as it is priced reasonably and is not content that was obviously cut during development and repackaged for extra profit I’ll gladly pay a bit extra for more of a game that I enjoy.

However, I was surprised by the announcement that Breath of the Wild would be receiving an “Expansion Pass.” (What is that supposed to be, a cross between Season Pass and a good, old fashioned expansion?) After all, Nintendo is new to the DLC game and all of the games in this series had previously launched as a complete package. So I took a bit of time to organize my thoughts on this. Should we be worried? Excited? Upset? Let’s take a deep breath (of the wild) to calm down, look at a dash of history of the series, and think on a pinch of speculation and reasoning to reach your own conclusions on this. Obviously not everyone is going to agree with me, but you might be surprised at the answer I arrived at for myself.

First things first…

Let’s take a look at what exactly is in the Expansion Pass so that we’re all on the same page as to what I’m talking about.

Once again, if nothing else, the promotional artwork is fantastic.

So the Expansion Pass will essentially be served at 3 separate points:

  • Upon purchasing the pass
  • Summer for “Pack 1”
  • Winter for “Pack 2”

The pacing of the releases and what you get at each point honestly confuses me a bit.

  • Here are a few minor/bonus items, thank you for your patience as we work on the expansion.
  • Here’s a little more to play with but we’re still not finished. Please understand.
  • BAM! Lots of content (relative to the rest of the pass) and the full expansion is finally served.

I think this would have looked and sounded better if it were all released at one time. The content offered just sounds too oddly placed and bottom-heavy to work as multiple packs – let alone that it’s only available to purchase as a whole set. No piecemeal DLC choosing here; it’s all or nothing.

However, this also very much seems to be a work in progress – they don’t even have specific months chosen yet, only a vague estimate of when they will be finishing up each portion. Should they have waited to serve it all at once? It’s hard to say. Assuming Holiday 2017 is when everything would be completed and ready to release (thus the staggered batches of content) then they’re probably better off giving fans something to download rather than risking the bulk of people moving on to other games by the time this rolls around and not buying it at all. After all, the Legend of Zelda series is a surprisingly low-selling series compared to Nintendo’s other big names.

However, there’s another issue here that I think is bigger than when the content is being released.

Why did Nintendo decide to announce this now?

Nintendo is new to the DLC game, but to jump into the trend of announcing DLC before a game is even released is going to piss people off. This is a truly terrible trend that has been going on across the gaming landscape, but that doesn’t make it excusable. Honestly, I think this is a large part of the reason that there are so many people upset. (Besides “New Hard Mode” being sold as DLC, but more on that later.)

While I don’t think that Nintendo did/would cut content to sell separately, the timing of this announcement is definitely going to give people this impression. Fact or not, that’s what a lot of people now think – and that’s not a good thing. After all, the game has only gone gold this past week or so. Had this been announced perhaps a week or two after launch instead of before launch it could have given a much nicer impression.

Let’s take a look at a bit of Nintendo’s brief history with DLC, shall we?

  • Mario Kart 8. Launched as a complete (and overall fantastic) game, and then the Season Pass was announced. (I obviously want to highlight this to point out the poor timing of this announcement.) The ability to add DLC even needed to be patched into the game. Not to mention that by most counts the price was more than fair – the Season Pass added an extra 4 grand prix cups for $25; 50% more content for about 42% of the base game’s price. Not too shabby at all.
In retrospect, DLC for Breath of the Wild should have seemed like a much larger possibility.
  • Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS. Again, the ability to add DLC was patched into the game after release. Pricing was a little more inflated than Mario Kart – $5 or $6 for a single character, most of them including a custom stage. Considering the enormous size of the pre-DLC roster (including multiple, customizable movesets) there is a lower percentage of content that was added, but still average pricing compared to other fighting games such as Street Fighter IV and Mortal Kombat X. (For the sake of fairness, this is assuming you bought everything full price and at launch.) Not to mention that the pre-DLC roster was also quite robust on its own.

There’s not much else to look at from Nintendo when it comes to big pieces of DLC – assorted Hyrule Warriors characters and Fire Emblem Map Packs aside – but at least so far Nintendo has had a relative knack for introducing DLC at a fair price.

Which brings us now to their cheapest complete pack of DLC yet.

Speculating on Breath of the Wild’s “New Hard Mode,” and why I doubt this is cut content

This has been a big point of contention from what I’ve seen – second only to the timing of the announcement. However, what’s the actual history of multiple difficulties in Zelda games?

To summarize – there’s really not much. There was “Hero Mode” in only 4 games, where the difficulty was raised by doubling the damage you took and limiting the amount of healing available. (With the exception of Twilight Princess HD which also flipped the map on its vertical axis – essentially utilizing both GameCube and Wii versions of the game in one version.) There’s also only a sort of “Master Quest” version in only two games. Not to mention that the way this was handled was quite different between the original game and Ocarina of Time. That leaves over a dozen games in the series that have just the one, standard difficulty.

Oh, and this higher difficulty was only included in 3 of these 6 games in the series so far – and none of these 3 that included it used new or different content when playing in their hard mode.

So what’s the deal with Breath of the Wild’s “new Hard Mode?” Really, we don’t know anything yet beyond just that it’s coming.

That it won’t be available until the summer leads me to believe there’s more going on than just a simple “buff/debuff” situation going on here. Ocarina of Time’s Master Quest wasn’t available until some time later, and only as an entirely separate purchase. This was also a rather drastic overhaul of the game, with entirely different puzzles in each dungeon. While I don’t think the new one will be as in-depth due to the sheer size of this game, Aonuma and co. definitely seem to have something up their collective sleeves that they need a little extra time to work on.

I’m cautiously hopeful and optimistic on this end.

A few odds and ends

If I were a betting man, I would put money down that the new story is either going to use Zelda as a playable character or take place with pre-hibernation Link. Or maybe even both! In either case, that the new dungeon is probably going to be integrated into the new story somehow. Along with this, I am thoroughly confused at an “additional map feature” being DLC unless it was somehow either spoiler related or tied into the upcoming story and dungeon.

Overall, what it really boils down to is that I really wish that we had more details about just what’s included here. Speculation can only get us so far and, combined with the time of the announcement, is upsetting more people than Nintendo really should in their current position. After all, it’s easy to just say that something should have been included with the retail game without knowing more details about exactly what’s included.

Given Nintendo’s current track record with DLC and selling full games, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are going to do this right.

However, I’m absolutely going to wait and see exactly what I’m getting before I decide to buy it. I urge anyone else reading who is at all interested to vote with their wallets and do the same. Voting with our wallets is the only way we can really tell developers and publishers that it is not cool to ask us to pay for DLC without knowing more about the quality and quantity of the content we are getting.

Even if it is only $20.