Battle passes make me never want to play a multiplayer game ever again

Overwatch 2 Tracer
(Image credit: Tyler C. / Activision Blizzard)

Though I've been playing games for most of my 27 years of living, I'd never completed a battle pass until a few weeks ago. That's not for a lack of trying, mind you. I've bought passes for the likes of Fortnite (opens in new tab), MultiVersus (opens in new tab), and Halo Infinite (opens in new tab) before. But it was like some strange curse, that as soon as the money left my bank account any motivation to play the game went with it.

I largely expected it to be the same situation with Overwatch 2 (opens in new tab). Though I got plenty of enjoyment out of the first game, the addition of a battle pass was incredibly off-putting to me. I've never been a fan of them, as evidenced by my inability to complete one until now. They feel lazy, tacky, and completely at odds with how I've traditionally enjoyed playing games. Now I've reached level 80 on Overwatch 2's first battle pass and 'gotten my money's worth' so to speak, do I feel any different? Absolutely not. If anything, finally completing a battle pass has further cemented my belief that they're one of the worst inventions to infiltrate our hobby in a hot sec.

It probably doesn't help that Overwatch 2's battle pass is, in all fairness, a bit shit. Right now, it doesn't offer any currency to partially or fully fund the next season's battle pass. There are a handful of skins, highlight intros and victory poses. Some of them were keeping with the first season's cyberpunk theme, while others were wildly off-kilter. There's no satisfaction in completing the daily or weekly challenges. As daft as it sounds, in a game with hundreds of cosmetics across dozens of heroes, it kind of sucks seeing everybody get the exact same thing. 

Overwatch 2's season 2 battle pass

(Image credit: Blizzard)

That's only a small part of why I really dislike battle passes, though. I've spent a good chunk of my gaming life either in the pleasure of my own company via single-player games or in subscription-based MMOs, both of which would be daft candidates for a battle pass. There are structures to both, ways you are meant to play each game contained within those categories. But also, it's kind of my choice at the end of the day. If I want to play Final Fantasy 14 for 100 hours in a single week, unsubscribe and leave it alone for six months, I'm not really missing out. There'll be the odd seasonal event with rewards I'll miss, only to appear for cheap in the cash shop a year later. But I can easily catch up on months or years of content and feel like I haven't missed much compared to those who were there for every patch release.

Battle passes feel like the antithesis of how I've spent most of my life engaging with games. They prey on FOMO, something I'm admittedly all too susceptible to. Want a cosmetic that's pretty far along a battle pass? Better clear your calendar and prepare to grind over the course of several days or even weeks, lest you miss out. Potentially forever! It's a crappy feeling—not playing a game because I want to, but because I feel like I have to.

You can sit on your high horse and tell me "just don't play, then." But I can guarantee most people who've purchased and completed a battle pass have, at some point, begrudgingly booted up the game in pursuit of completing dailies to grind a few levels.

Overwatch 2 battle pass

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

That's perhaps the largest sticking point for me about battle passes: it forces you to play in small doses across long periods of time. Daily and weekly challenges keep players coming back in one or two-hour bursts, completing a few challenges in the evening and then returning the next day when dailies reset. I could probably come into Overwatch 2 a week before the season ends, grind my heart out and still fail to complete it. It's such a lazy way to generate player retention, and challenges often feel incredibly unnecessary or force players to engage with the game the way the devs want. Anything that takes power away from players and the way they enjoy playing is a bad thing.

Battle passes feel like the antithesis of how I've spent most of my life engaging with games.

The demand for constant live-service updates is never going to go away, and battle passes are an easy way to generate revenue developers need to keep up with relatively little effort. I'll bet more egregious forms of monetisation will appear in the near future that further relieve pressure on development while raking in easy bucks and players' time.

With Overwatch 2's second season in full swing, I've been hesitant to participate this time. Of its 80 tiers, only six contain cosmetics for heroes I regularly play. Only two of them I actually like. But without it, there's no sense of progression. No reward for playing. Nothing that tells my brain "Hey! This game is worth your time!" And that's the real kicker, huh?

I can't live with battle passes, but I can't live without them either. Maybe I'm part of the problem! Maybe I should crawl back to my battle pass-free singleplayer games before it's too late and they fall victim, too.

Mollie Taylor
Features Producer

Mollie spent her early childhood deeply invested in games like Killer Instinct, Toontown and Audition Online, which continue to form the pillars of her personality today. She joined PC Gamer in 2020 as a news writer and now lends her expertise to write a wealth of features, guides and reviews with a dash of chaos. She can often be found causing mischief in Final Fantasy 14, using those experiences to write neat things about her favourite MMO. When she's not staring at her bunny girl she can be found sweating out rhythm games, pretending to be good at fighting games or spending far too much money at her local arcade.