Some say they are becoming mandatory for mobile games.
Others wouldn’t go that far, but one thing is for sure – the battle pass feature is a hot mobile game market trend.
Let’s go over everything you need to know about battle passes.
What Is a Battle Pass?
A battle pass is a type of subscription. Once players purchase it, they get an opportunity to unlock different rewards and new content.
The passes usually come in the form of battle pass seasons. This means they last for a set amount of time. For example, 15 days or 30 days. During this time, players should progress through the game and try to unlock as many battle pass rewards as possible.
Battle passes should provide great value for money. Equally important, they should bring desirable rewards. Here are some of the things you can offer as battle pass rewards:
- Cosmetic items (skins, outfits)
- Hard and soft currency
- Loot boxes
- Access to new levels, etc.
It’s important to mention that not all battle passes are paid. Most games have two versions of them: free and paid.
All players can play the free version, but it brings fewer rewards. Its purpose is to give players a taste of the “real” battle pass and make them want to buy it.
Only the paid version offers the full battle pass experience. It is intended for players who are engaged with the game and crave a premium gameplay experience.
Essentially, the battle pass is not just a monetization feature, but also a valuable retention and engagement feature.
It has the potential to have numerous positive effects on your game, regardless of its genre and gameplay.
That is… only if you implement it right.
The Battle Pass Trend Backstory
If it weren’t for Fortnite, it’s possible I wouldn’t be writing this article right now.
Before coming to mobile, battle passes mainly existed in action PC games. This was until 2018 when someone in Fortnite thought of a genius idea – bringing this feature to mobile.
And just like that, a trend was born.
Soon after, other mid-core games embraced the battle pass feature. This includes other FPS games like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile, but also strategy games like Rise of Kingdoms.
In just a few months, the trend expanded to other genres. Some of the games that utilized it were Archero, Gardenscapes, and 8 Ball Pool.
Obviously, game developers realized – this feature can fit almost every type of game.
In 2021, the list of games that use battle passes became quite lengthy. They are one of the key monetization trends for mobile games, and they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Battle Pass Examples in Top-Grossing Mobile Games
Wondering why this feature works for so many different games?
I believe it’s best to answer this question with examples, so let’s analyze battle pass utilization in four very different games.
Diablo Immortal is a new installment of the massively popular Diablo series released in June 2022. This MMORPG game earned more than $120 million just in the first three months!
That’s thanks to its controversial monetization strategy. Battle passes are, of course, a part of it as well. Here’s what you need to know.
The battle pass system in Diablo Immortal is linked to seasons – each one lasts for a month. Battle passes reward players with Battle Points for completing various activities and quests. Furthermore, the battle pass system in Diablo Immortal is tied to the character progression system – Battle Points increase players’ Battle Pass Rank.
There are different battle passes in Diablo Immortal. For example, in Season 4, there was a Battle Pass Free Track, Battle Pass Empowered Track that costs $4.99, and Battle Pass that unlocks the first 14 ranks for $14.99. Naturally, players who choose to spend money on a battle pass will get better rewards and quicker access. The most affordable battle pass is quite cheap, which makes it a good deal, considering players get a lot of items and bonus experience.
It’s important to note that players don’t have access to any of the battle passes when they start playing – they first need to complete certain quests.
Clash of Clans
When this strategy game first introduced the battle pass feature, its revenues skyrocketed.
In the week they launched their Gold Pass, the game’s revenues climbed 145% compared to the week before. (Sensor Tower)
After that, the battle pass remained an important revenue stream for the game. It is currently the game’s 4th best-selling offer in the US (Sensor Tower, iOS). Obviously, they are doing a lot of things right, so let’s analyze how this game’s battle pass works.
Buying the pass costs Clash of Clans players $4.99. This is pretty cheap for a strategy game.
A Gold Pass season lasts for one month. During this time, players need to complete weekly and daily active challenges. They can complete them any time they want during the season, while new challenges appear every week. Upon completing these challenges, players earn challenge points that then unlock battle pass rewards.
The rewards are really diverse. They include – gold, special hero skins, boosts, special perks, and Season Bank upgrades.
Players can see all the possible rewards in the game’s Rewards List. Only the Gold Pass rewards come with a golden frame, so players are always aware of what they’re missing out on.
This game’s battle pass affects gameplay quite a bit. With all these rewards, players can build faster, their heroes recover faster, etc. All of this makes the pass tempting, especially for players who are very engaged with the game.
Also, its daily challenge system makes players return to the game every day, which is a great retention strategy.
Call of Duty: Mobile
When players start playing this game, they are introduced to its battle pass almost immediately.
It appears right after players finish their first battle, and it’s integrated with the game’s tutorial. Players can see a free and paid rewards track, and the tutorial text directs players to the “buy” button for the premium version.
This is not a common practice.
However, it makes sense because, this way, players get used to the rewarding experience right away.
Another thing that makes this battle pass special is that it always comes in one free and two paid versions.
The prices depend on the season.
In this case, the basic paid version was worth 560 COD Points, which is roughly $6. If players buy this version, they can unlock all premium rewards. The upgraded version was set at approximately $12 (discounted). It offers additional perks with a special focus on cosmetic items.
Since there are three price points, the battle pass should be appealing to three different player groups:
- Players who don’t want to spend anything
- Those willing to pay a small price
- Hardcore paying players
In this game, the battle pass season is pretty long – it lasts for six weeks. This is logical because the game has great retention rates and long player lifespans. Additionally, the battle pass gives players more goals and motivation to keep playing.
This game was one of the first to bring the battle pass feature to a match-3 game.
In it, the battle pass always appears under a different name/theme. For example: Furry Season, Disco Season, Yoga Season, Rodeo Season.
They are based on real seasons, real-world events, etc. This is a great strategy because it makes each season exciting and special. For example, the yoga season was developed in collaboration with WHO, concerning the pandemic.
In Gardenscapes, it comes in a free and a paid version. If players want premium rewards (Golden Ticket), this will cost them $5. A standard price for battle passes in the casual category.
During a 30-day season, all players need to do to earn battle pass rewards is to keep playing. This earns them Season points. Every time they reach a points threshold, they get a new reward.
The theme of the season is also present as a special battle pass reward. Depending on the season, players could win a fox pet, a yoga gazebo, etc. This is a big selling point for the game.
Other rewards are diverse and include everything the game offers – lives, boosters, currency, extra moves, etc.
All in all, the battle pass makes a nice addition to the game. It brings another progression layer for engaged players to enjoy.
Tips for Implementing a Battle Pass
How do you make players want to purchase a battle pass for the 1st, 3rd, and maybe even 10th time?
As you know, after a battle pass season ends, it doesn’t renew itself. Players need to voluntarily go and purchase it again. For this reason, you have to make sure you fulfill their expectations – again and again.
Here are some tips to guide you through making the battle pass feature work for your game.
Include a Free and a Paid Track
I’ve already mentioned that battle passes usually come in a free and a paid version. This is a great strategy.
It can get even better if you visualize it all.
Let all players see exactly which rewards they can get from the free and the paid version. This should have a psychological effect on players that only play the free battle pass.
It basically says, “Look at all these things you earned but haven’t received!”
If they paid for the premium version, they wouldn’t be stuck with just the basic rewards.
Once they see how much more they could get for their effort, they might decide on a purchase. You can additionally boost this by displaying both rewards tracks upon each level/stage completion.
This way, they will always feel tempted to get more.
Offer It at the Right Moment
A player who just started playing your game probably won’t care about your battle pass offer.
However, a player who is already engaged with the game will clearly see its value.
For this reason, you should introduce the battle pass offer at the right spot in the player’s lifespan.
Now, how do you know the time is right?
Ideally, you should display it when players have learned the ropes of the game. They should also be able to understand most of your battle pass features.
If your players’ lifespans are shorter, introduce a battle pass after they finish the onboarding phase and play a couple of levels. If lifespans are longer, you can wait until they are more engaged with the game.
Don’t Be Stingy with Battle Pass Rewards
You should be generous with both free and paid battle pass rewards. If you’re being cheap with free rewards, players won’t be excited about them at all.
Of course, the paid version should be much more exciting.
Especially in the beginning.
For this reason, you should make your pass extra rewarding in the first couple of stages, both in the free and paid version.
In the paid version, the premium experience should continue. However, once players finish the first few stages in your free version, feel free to slow the rewards down.
Be Strategic About the Rewards You Offer
When you’re deciding what to offer your players as rewards, don’t just copy others.
Ask yourself, “What do my players crave? What aspect of my game do they find important?”
In most cases, players want hard currency, so feel free to reward them with it. However, you have to be careful about it because if you give out too much of it, this can jeopardize your IAPs.
If your players enjoy the cosmetics aspect of your game, you should get the most out of it.
Cosmetic rewards should always appear exclusive.
For instance, you can introduce skins players can’t win in any other way. Even better – introduce new, unique skins with every new pass. This makes them not only exclusive but also time-exclusive.
The Longer, the Better
You may be wondering – how long should my battle pass seasons be?
After all, in some games, they last only for a week while others stretch them for a full month.
There is no definitive answer to this question, but I advise making it compatible with all other aspects of your game. For example, if you have some kind of live-ops cycles your players are used to, make the battle pass match the length.
However, it’s recommended to prolong it. According to Unity, you should make it at least 30 days long. Of course, only if that makes sense for your game.
Whatever timeframe you choose, you need to make sure to profit from the players’ retention rates and show them the true value of your battle pass.
Set the Right Prices
The price ranges for battle passes usually go anywhere from $5 to $12.
Casual games usually stick to lower prices. Mid and hardcore games can afford to set the price points higher.
This is because casual gamers don’t usually spend much on a single purchase. In mid-core games, the odds of this happening are higher.
One thing is for sure – it should be a VERY valuable offer.
Its value for money should be much higher than what players can get with one-time purchases from your store. According to Unity, it should be 30 to 50x more valuable than your other offers.
Afraid that this could cannibalize your IAP offers?
As long as you implement the reward systems right, there should be no negative effects on your other offers.
Set Achievable Goals
Imagine buying a battle pass and then finding out that, no matter how long you play, you can’t seem to reach the rewards.
This would piss off anyone.
For this reason, battle pass challenges should be as accessible as possible. Players should be able to reach them by merely playing the game for a while.
For example, an FPS game might ask players to “kill two players with a rifle.” This is something almost all players do in the course of a match.
Of course, you can set more difficult challenges here and there.
If you do this, make sure players can skip them if they want. It’s best to give players the chance to pick out which challenges they want to complete.
As you can see, battle passes can have numerous positive effects on your game. Not only on its revenues but on other key metrics as well.
This trend is definitely staying, so consider this feature for your game. If you want to read more articles on mobile games, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter!