The 3 Do’s and Don’ts of Battle Passes in Modern Gaming

Here are 3 Do's and 3 Don'ts of Battle Passes, detailing what makes them great and enjoyable but also what can make them boring slogs that irritate players. Since their introduction a few years ago, Battle Passes have spread to all corners of the industry, generating plenty of successes and failures wherever they go.

The 3 Do's and Don'ts of Battle Passes in Modern Gaming

Compared to other forms of media, gaming chews through trends at a much faster rate. This is especially true when it comes to monetisation practices. From full-priced games to free-to-play, from season passes and map packs to horse armour and loot boxes. Perhaps the biggest thing that has enraptured the industry for the last several years is the idea of Battle Passes.

Since their inception a few years ago, Battle Passes has quickly ballooned into a new form of monetisation and progression in nearly every facet of gaming. Whether free-to-play or full-priced AAA productions, it isn’t hard to find many going all in on Battle Passes. With that much competition, gamers have sussed out their favourite features of this new phenomenon… as well as the features that they would rather developers omit entirely. 

Despite that, no one has managed to create the perfect Battle Pass yet. When implemented successfully, a Battle Pass can give players a steady stream of meaningful rewards that can be earned with just enough effort (but not enough that it becomes tedious) while also offering developers a healthy way to monetise their games. When done poorly, however, a Battle Pass can become a greedy time sink with poor rewards that quickly becomes a waste of time and energy. 

Here are the 3 Do’s and Don’ts of Battle Passes in modern gaming.

Want more content and articles on games like Overwatch 2 or Destiny 2? You can find more here on KeenGamer:

  1. Festival of the Lost 2022 Proves That Destiny 2 Events Still Need Work
  2. Destiny 2: Who is Nezarec?
  3. Overwatch 2 Reveals New Season 2 Tank Hero, Ramattra
  4. Overwatch 2 Review: Redefining the Sequel (XSX)

The Battle Passes of Gaming

First, let’s take a look at a few examples of Battle Passes in a variety of games. All of the following games are free to play (in one way or another). There are certainly other titles such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II where full-priced games have additional paid Battle Passes, too.

It is also worth noting that all these games have a paid and free track to each Battle Pass. The differences will be detailed in each section. 

Destiny 2

Destiny 2 switched to a Battle Pass system with the launch of its third major expansion, Shadowkeep. Since then it has gone on to have a consistent Pass for each season. It should be noted that Destiny 2 is unique when it comes to Battle Passes. When you purchase the season as a whole including new activities, weapons, armour and other more in-depth aspects of the game. The Battle Pass is bundled with this. The following is only looking at the contents of the Pass, not at the content of the Seasons as a whole. 

There are 100 levels in the Destiny 2 Battle Pass. The biggest draws are the exclusive Exotic Weapon and the unique themed cosmetics. There are other inclusions such as Exotic Accessories, upgrade materials and several ‘boosts’ to XP. Meanwhile, the free track offers Eververse Engrams, 2 fixed rolls of seasonal weapons and over 7000 Bright Dust. 

Each Destiny Season Pass launches with a unique Exotic weapon (the highest tier of weapon in the game). Each of these weapons can only be acquired from the pass (either at level 1 on the paid track or 35 on the free track). Meanwhile, the themed cosmetics come at the tail-end of the pass and are always based on the current seasonal theme – this season, for example, is pirate themed. There is a complete armour set for each of the 3 classes. 

You earn Season Pass rank in a few ways. The easiest way is to just play. XP from everything in the game contributes to your Season Pass, allowing you to play what you want and still earn rank. The other primary way is through Seasonal Challenges which task Guardians with completing certain parts of the game in specific ways: get kills with mid-ranged weapons, defeat Champions in Strikes, complete activities on Earth and other such examples. Completing these challenges varying amounts of XP (with harder challenges offering more) and some even offer Bright Dust alongside that. 

Destiny 2 BP

Destiny 2 BP

Apex Legends

Apex Legends has had a Battle Pass from the very start, with the first launching in Season 1 alongside Octane. Since then, there has been a Battle Pass for every Season and it has evolved its contents over time. 

There are 110 levels in the Apex Legends Battle Pass. The extra 10 levels are mainly used for an extra recolour of the final reward. There are often 4 Legendary skins (2 for weapons and 2 for characters) offered in each paid pass. One of the biggest draws is that one Legendary weapon skin will be ‘Reactive’ or ‘Evolving’ skin. These skins change throughout the game, gaining new effects like smoke with each kill.

Aside from the Legendary offerings, a variety of other cosmetic rewards are the other selling points. Trackers and voice lines fill most of the levels but they are joined now and again by weapon charms, banner frames, character emotes and Loot Boxes. The free track contains a single rare character skin, some Loot Boxes and trackers. Crucially, you can also earn Apex Coins, the paid currency of Apex Legends, in the Battle Pass itself (1000 on the paid and 300 on the free). 

Battle Pass EXP is earned through a star system: 1 level equals 10 stars. You get these stars either by just playing and completing matches or through various challenges. These can range from playing 12 matches as a specific character, getting 5000 damage with a certain weapon type or uniquely using a character’s skill. The harder challenges award more stars (with some offering a full level in the form of 10) while easier ones give less. 

Apex Legends BP

Apex Legends BP

Overwatch 2

After transitioning over to Overwatch 2 from the original Overwatch, the original Loot Box-based system and economy have been replaced by a Battle Pass and corresponding shop instead. As of writing, only 1 season of the Overwatch 2 Battle Pass has been released. Recent Comments on Season 2 suggest that no major changes are going to occur. 

There are only 80 levels in the Overwatch 2 Battle Pass, with an additional 120 Prestige Ranks. All tangible and advertised rewards are earned in the first 80 levels, whereas Prestige Ranks only offer titles. Aside from a single 20% EXP boost, every item in the pass is purely cosmetic in one way or another.

There is a handful (about 5 or 6) of Legendary skins sprinkled throughout the Pass. These are also joined by a smaller amount of Epic options. The main draw, however, is the new Mythic tier of skin where players can swap out and customise the skin in a limited number of ways. Other included items feature voice lines, emotes, highlight intros, souvenirs (which are used in certain character emotes), victory poses and sprays. 

The most contentious inclusion of the Battle Pass is that new Heroes will be locked behind the Battle Pass. For the latest Hero Kiriko, this has yet to be seen as many players received her for free for playing Overwatch 1. In season 2, though, the wider player base will experience this locking mechanic with Ramattra. If you pay for the Pass, the new Hero has unlocked straight away (similar to the Exotic weapon in Destiny 2). However, if you want them for free then you will have to grind up to Rank 55.

Battle Pass EXP is earned primarily through challenges. Matches do contribute but the challenges are where most of the levels will be earned. There are daily, weekly and seasonal challenges which award different levels of EXP based on difficulty or time investment. A daily challenge may only ask you to queue ‘All Roles’ 3 times whereas a Seasonal Challenge will want 20 wins on a specific character. 

Overwatch 2 BP

Overwatch 2 BP

Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact has potentially the strangest Battle Pass on the list. This is mostly because it adheres to the standards set by mobile and gacha games rather than F2P or AAA. It has had a Battle Pass for its entire lifespan, with each Pass lasting the duration of each Version (which is typically about 40 days). 

There are 50 levels to the Genshin Impact Battle Pass. Unlike most other Passes there are no cosmetic rewards and everything is purely material. The main takeaways are the majority of items are simply material resources: level-up manuals for increasing your unit levels, weapon enhancement materials, Talent materials, and even Mora. The free and paid track are often mirrored, with the paid track increasing the quantity of the items earned. 

The unique rewards that are here are the Wishes and weapons. The free track gives players 5 Blue (also known as Standard) Fates to be redeemed for 1 Wish each on the Standard Banner. The paid track instead gives 4 Purple (or Event) Wishes. These can be redeemed for 1 Wish each on either the Event Character or Weapon Banner. You also get 640 Primogems. At level 30 the Pass also gives paying players 1 of 5 unique weapons – these weapons are the same that released with the game and duplicate weapons can be ‘refined’ to make the original stronger.

The only way to level up the Genshin Impact Battle Pass is via challenges. There are daily and weekly challenges which are the same every day and week, respectively. If you do not complete the Challenges within the day or week, they will roll over and you cannot get that EXP back. There are also challenges that span for much longer periods, usually based on the different Events that come in each Version. 

Genshin Impact BP

Genshin Impact BP

The Do’s

The one thing all Battle Passes have in common is how you get them. There is often a free track, available to anyone and everyone who plays. The best stuff comes in a paid track, which must be bought separately. For games like Overwatch 2 and Apex Legends, you have to buy them with Overwatch Coins and Apex Coins, respectively. On the whole, this often amounts to around £8 or $10.

One of the best things about games like Fornite or Apex Legends is that their Battle Passes include paid currency. Apex Legends includes 1300 coins across both tracks of the Pass. This gives you more options and freedom. On one hand, it may mean that your next pass is essentially free. On the other hand, you could instead spend them on other cosmetics in the cash shop. 

The best thing about this is that it keeps you coming back and keeps people engaged. If you know that you can save a few quid by just playing the game and completing the Pass, why wouldn’t you? In that same vein it can help keep players coming back time and time again: pay £8 once and, as long as you’re consistent, you don’t have to ever pay again. It’s a great sign of goodwill and commitment to your community. 

There are currently only a few games that offer paid currency in their Battle Passes. However, I doubt many players would complain if Silver or Overwatch Coins made their way to the Destiny 2 or Overwatch 2 Battle Passes. More paid currency in Overwatch 2 would allow players a better way to earn skins since loot boxes have been removed. Meanwhile, Destiny 2 players could engage more with the Eververse store instead of just watching from a distance. 

While it is obvious why we don’t see this as a more common feature (the loss of revenue being clear as day), I sincerely believe that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Knowing that by playing the current season of Apex I could guarantee more fun in the next season was certainly a driving force in completing the pass. You can’t buy goodwill from a player base, but splashing a little virtual cash certainly goes a long way.

Sweet Sweet Currency

Sweet Sweet Currency

High-Quality Rewards

While this may sound obvious in theory, it is sometimes rare to see it in practice. Players need some cool incentives to reach the maximum rank.

The main way to do this is to offer rewards that aren’t available anywhere else. For Apex Legends, these are the Reactive Gun Skins at levels 100 and 110. These always have a little more flair compared to the other Legendary offerings, their ‘evolving’ nature setting them apart. The same goes for the Mythic skins in Overwatch 2. Having customisable skins on par with a Legendary, even if it’s small parts, is a big attractor. 

Reactive Skin

Reactive Skin

Other ways are just focusing a lot on quantity. Alongside the aforementioned Mythic skin, Overwatch 2 has a healthy helping of Legendary skins too. There’s enough that they cover a good amount of heroes, increasing the chance that there will something for you. Another example is Fornite, where lots of crossover and skins from a ton of different IPs make the Passes valuable. While not cosmetic or character-focused, Genshin Impact does this as well, loading you up on level-up and material resources. These don’t feel necessary but are useful all the same.

Apex Legends even has additional rewards such as Crafting Metals. If you get to level 100 in the Pass, you will have collected enough Crafting Metals (1200 specifically) to create almost any Legendary skin in the game. This is a similarly great incentive as the Reactive Skins, by giving people direct access to skins and cosmetics that they choose.

Cosmetics are the easiest way to achieve this goal. People like looking cool, and simple. However, the most prominent thing is that players want things to look forward to. The big final reward such as a Mythic or Reactive Skin is enticing, but other rewards at shorter intervals (25, 50, etc.) are just as important. If a lot of the pass is just dead air, it won’t be rewarding to go through.

Genji Mythic Skin

Genji Mythic Skin

Pay Once, Play Forever

Battle Passes have a set life span by design. They are tied to seasons which usually last around 2-3 months, giving players that window to earn all the rewards. If you don’t hit 100 in that time? Bad luck, those items (that you technically paid for) disappear. This is the sad reality of most Battle Passes that seems unlikely to change. 

There is one silver lining, however. Or more accurately, one Battle Pass that is trying to change that. 

Say what you will about Halo: Infinite, its Battle Pass or its cosmetics, but it has a very healthy approach to Battle Pass progression. Halo: Infinite still runs off a seasonal-based model (something that Infinite players know a bit too well by now) and the Battle Pass does too. What is different is that if you purchase a Battle Pass, it will not disappear come season end. Instead, you will be able to switch back to it and earn EXP on old passes should you decide. 

Buy Once, Level Whenever

Buy Once, Level Whenever

Compared to the FOMO-laden world of F2P and live-service games, this is an absolutely great feature. It allows everyone to get their money’s worth, even if they can’t immediately finish it. By giving security and assurance, it makes people want to come back. Additionally, it benefits player health, allowing them to take a step away from the game without fearing that they will miss out.

The universal acclaim over this inclusion in Halo: Infinite has mostly been drowned out thanks to the game’s stagnant state. Even then, it is a bit disappointing to see that other companies haven’t gotten on board with this yet. FOMO sells, sure, but so does assurance. If someone pays for a Pass then they are paying for everything in that pass – taking it away when an arbitrary number ends just leads to a total decline in player engagement and trust. 

Halo: Infinite BP

Halo: Infinite BP

The Don’ts

Filler Items

Most Battle Passes offer some form of unique reward to hook players into engaging with that specific progression path. Some games offer items or resources but the most common is something cosmetic. Destiny 2 has Universal Ornaments, Overwatch 2 has Legendary and Mythic Skins, and I could go on. The best rewards are often sprinkled throughout the Pass (with levels 1, 25, 50 and 100 usually being where the most high-profile rewards rest). 

So what about the other 90+ levels? What do Battle Passes fill those with? Well, often not a lot. 

Filler items are an inevitability for Battle Passes. With so many levels and only so many high-quality rewards to offer, inevitably some fluff is going in too. However, the level of poor does vary from game to game. Often, players can tell the forest from the trees in this regard: what parts of the pass are merely lesser and which are borderline useless. When you see a big promotion offering 100 items, only about a quarter are any good (if you’re lucky).

Voice lines are the major culprit here. Games with a character focus like Overwatch 2 or Apex Legends are chock-full of voice lines and, for the most part, these are pure padding. They serve some use, but it doesn’t feel remotely exciting to receive them. In the case of Apex Legends, things like Seasonal Trackers only add to this feeling of padding. Other things like the new Souverniers from Overwatch 2 serve the same purpose.  

As we previously discussed, it isn’t feasible to want 100 high-quality items each pass – it just isn’t attainable. However, a good way to lessen that feeling would be to bundle some of these items together. Apex Legends mostly comes out on top in this regard, as most filler things like trackers are on the free path, paired with better items like banner frames or gun skins on the paid. Even still, there are the odd few times when players will earn double voice lines or double trackers, and it never feels good.

A large part of the charm of Battle Passes is flicking through them and getting excited about the next level or the next 10 levels. It will always be hard to motivate players to get excited about stuff like voice lines, but doing it this way is far more likely to achieve those results. 



Locking Items in the Pass

Locking integral or important parts of the game behind the Battle Pass is perhaps even worse than filler. While seeing that the next 10 levels are just full of voice lines and the odd spray here or there can be demotivating, seeing that it will take you hours and hours of grind to get something impactful can feel even worse.

The main culprits here are Destiny 2 and Overwatch 2. For Destiny 2, it’s the Exotic Weapons. Season Pass Exotics have ranged from ‘just okay’ offerings like Symmetry or Cryosthesia 77k to ‘top-shelf’ mainstays like Witherhoard. It is safe to say that a good Exotic can change the way that Destiny 2 plays, and so it is a little demoralising to have one locked behind Ranks in the Season Pass. Sure, if you buy the Pass you get it right away and the level 35 requirement for free players isn’t horrendous, but it is far from ideal. 

Locked Exotics

Locked Exotics

And if Destiny 2 is far from ideal, Overwatch 2 is on another plane entirely. Now, new Heroes that are added to the game will be locked behind certain ranks in the Battle Pass. A lot of the player base didn’t have to deal with this in Season 1. With Ramattra on the horizon, though, it is going to feel terrible knowing that you’ll have to pay to play him come launch. You are looking at at least 10+ hours of grinding the pass to even get close to the rank 55 requirements F2P. 

In both of these cases, cool game-changing stuff is gated being the barbed wire of the Battle Pass. Paid players feel incentivised to buy right away while free-to-play players are left in the dust. Exotics or new characters are an amazing way to hook new or returning players. Placing these massive roadblocks in the way just hurts engagement and breeds division. The Destiny community has just kind of accepted Season Pass Exotic weapons (it’s been going on for so long after all). It does hurt thinking about everyone who has to wait for upwards of 2 to 3 weeks before they get to try something as cool as Witherhoard, especially when everyone around them is singing its praises.

Companies likely see locking ‘essential’ content like this as a big incentive (because it honestly is). People will be far more likely to pick up the Pass for a cool Ramattra skin if they get to try him first. They would rather that than take a monetary gamble.

Locked Heroes

Locked Heroes

Obtuse Challenges for EXP

As you’ve likely noticed, the primary way to progress through most Battle Passes is via challenges. The amount that these directly affect Pass rank differs. In Destiny 2, challenges are a good way to get Season Pass EXP but you can get rank anywhere. Meanwhile, you can only progress the Genshin Impact Pass via specific challenges. Overall, challenges are a pretty good system that can shake up how you play in small but meaningful ways while you progress.

However, in almost every case where there are challenges for EXP, there are always extremely tedious or annoying challenges that turn otherwise fun experiences into annoying ones. There’s a certain patience tolerance that most people have with grindy challenges (get {X} amount of kills) and BP challenges usually overstep these… by a lot.

Overwatch 2 Challenges

Overwatch 2 Challenges

Apex Legends is perhaps the worst offender. Because earning rank is so difficult just by playing (it can be over 10 matches for one rank if you’re unlucky) you have to do the challenges. Unfortunately, most of the higher-tier challenges are dull tasks. They even make you play in plenty of annoying uncomfortable ways, especially for a Battle Royal title. If I’m asked to do 5000 damage with Pistols and I don’t find a single Pistol for 5 matches, I make 0 progress. Even then, what if you don’t like the Pistols? You’re actively putting yourself at a disadvantage for the sake of Battle Pass rank. 

This is fortunately something that Apex Legends has started to move away from (by giving you alternate paths in Arenas or Control where you can guarantee to get a certain weapon). That doesn’t mean it’s gone entirely, though. These kinds of challenges permeate every form of Battle Pass, dragging down more enjoyable ventures into frustrating ones. There are a few bright sparks, however, where challenges reward you for playing in different ways. 

It’s almost inevitable that there will be a few of these in each Pass because it keeps people playing. More playtime equals better reports to shareholders, after all. However, it is also the case that too many of these definitely spoil the broth and make Battle Passes feel like a chore. You need a balance and at the moment, it feels as though too many aren’t straddling that line quite right. 

Long Grindy List

Long Grindy List

There you have it, 3 successes and failures from the first few years of Battle Passes in gaming. Of course, there are more positives and negatives than what is listed here. If you can think of any more be sure to drop them in the comments.

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