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"Reverse Season Pass" is a name I just made up and I want to know if something like this already exists with a better name.

We all know regular season passes: you buy a pass for a game you already paid for, which gives you access to future dlc, which doesn't exist yet, and may or may not be worth the money. AAA publishers love those things and they're pretty BS for the customer, because they are expected to pay for something that doesn't exist yet, or may never exist, or may not even be worth the money. You just have to trust them with your money, and there's no guarantee the base game hasn't been already sliced up into future dlc prior release.

Now lets say you have a story-driven game you want to release in episodes, like I want to do. The game itself is already completely done, all episodes are ready, you just want to pace the content over a few weeks like a show on tv to create discussion and excitement in the fandom for each new episode. The episodes would be added to the base game, meaning the episodes aren't sold separatly, you want to sell the whole experience.

However, if you're like me and you're still a nobody in the gaming industry, charging full price for a game, that's supposedly done (you can't know for sure, right?), which is going to be released in pieces supposedly, seems... very shady. I wouldn't blame anyone if they found that suspicious.

Lets say your game as a whole is worth 30$ and you have five episodes, so 6$ per episode. What I thought of doing, which I think is pretty fair, is to adjust the price depending on how many episodes are already released. When the first episode is released, the game costs 6$. When the second episode is released, the game costs 12$, then 18$ with three episodes, 24$ with four episodes, and at last, 30$ for the full game with all five episodes.

On top of that, when people buy the game early, when only one or two episodes are available for example, they already essentially bought a season pass on top of the game and will receive all other episodes for free. That way, people pay for the game only what it's currently worth and early adopters are rewarded for their early purchase and show of trust.

Has anyone ever done something similair? Is there a name for it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's pretty much what most early-access games do: you pay a lesser price for the unfinished version, then the price ramps up at release but you already have access to the full copy then. \$\endgroup\$ – Quentin Nov 23 '17 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Quentin Good point, I haven't thought of early-access games like that, but it's kind of a different situation, isn't it? With early-access games, you know the game is unfinished and might be buggy, and the developers themselves even say it's unfinished. It also doubles as a testing ground for players to give useful feedback to the developers to improve the game. That's the point of early-access: to get feedback. With my example, however, the game is already completely finished and is just intentionally held back from release and instead released piece by piece. Not quite the same. \$\endgroup\$ – noClue Nov 23 '17 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, of course. Just mentioning it since it comes close :) \$\endgroup\$ – Quentin Nov 23 '17 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're a nobody, then how many players do you have, that you will be able to create a significant amount of discussion between them? \$\endgroup\$ – user253751 Nov 23 '17 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have the whole game ready to be released? If you wanted to, could you just release it in one piece at week 1? \$\endgroup\$ – John Hamilton Nov 24 '17 at 6:29
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This sounds pretty much like the Early Access business model. You start selling your game in a very early development stage. While the game is still mostly incomplete, you offer the game for a very low price. The further you progress, the more you raise the price until you've reached your planned price at release day.

The main difference to your business model is that Early Access games are usually not almost finished when they start going into early access. It usually takes years between early access release and actual release. The purpose is usually to fund the development while simultaneously market-testing the game and building hype.

But in your case, where you already financed the development, there is really no reason to follow that business model. You could just offer the base game for little money (or even for free) and release the individual episodes as paid DLC (just make sure that the total cost of the game is transparent). There is also very little business reason to artificially delay the release of the individual episodes. When they are finished, you can just put them onto the market and let players experience them at their own pace. If you release them with delays, there is a high risk that players will get distracted by a different game and forget about yours.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Sometimes early access games will cost more (Planetary Annihiliation comes to mind) and even be non-free before release and adopt a free to play model afterwards (Battlerite is a recent example). \$\endgroup\$ – John Hamilton Nov 24 '17 at 6:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ So what you're saying is that every company creating tv shows (animated or live-action) should air all their episodes at once when they've finished a season? :) I know attention span isn't at an all time high, but it still seems to work well for regular tv series(-es...?). I know I'm making a game and not a tv series, but I don't see why that would be wrong to do with a very story-heavy game that can be segmented into episodes. Btw, the reason I can't sell the episodes separately is because the episodes are interconnected very heavily: you can unlock a new path for ep2 with ep3 for example. \$\endgroup\$ – noClue Nov 24 '17 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @noclue that is exactly what Netflix does, puts out a full season at once \$\endgroup\$ – Richard Tingle Nov 26 '17 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RichardTingle Really? So a season, which hasn't been aired before, just gets released fully? All episodes are available immediatly? \$\endgroup\$ – noClue Nov 26 '17 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @noClue They usually do exactly this with their own productions (Marvel's The Defenders, Orange is the New Black), but with other shows, the episodes are released on a weekly basis (Star Trek: Discovery, Designated Survivor). They are still experimenting with this, apparently. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Nov 26 '17 at 17:00
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For over fifteen years, I've been following the games, the game industry and the business models in the industry. I have to say, I've never seen a business model like you're suggesting and I think it might work if you do it well.

The biggest problem you'll have is people not believing that a new developer actually has all the episodes done, but just wants to implement fancy business model.

I think you should have two versions of the game. One where you can present episodes as you want them to be available, and one that has all the episodes readily available. I see two options for this method to work.

The first one is easy, you just release both versions and let people choose whether they want to buy the whole thing now, or buy the episodic version which is cheaper now, but will be the same price as the full version. This can mean that the episodes you haven't released yet for the episodic version will have videos out there and you can't really control this.

Your second option is to only release the episodic version but to give the complete edition to the streamers or Youtube personalities and just ask for them to not release their relevant episodes (in case of Youtube) or play the unreleased episodes (in case of streamers) before you release them. You can do this pretty easily with an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) before sending them the game.

This does mean extra work on your side, but you'll at least have some people that can attest that your game is indeed complete.

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Arcen Games tried to do something like this with their game In Case of Emergency: Release Raptor figuring they could charge a few bucks for it "as it" and then as it sold, they could use those funds to develop further, incrementally increasing the price to match what the game was at the time.

It didn't go well.

Arcen's press release can speak better than I can, but press didn't like the concept and prospective players (incorrectly) assumed it was YouTube bait (what Goat Simulator is).

So be aware that while that kind of pricing scheme can work, there are problems to be aware of.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm sorry but that's not really what I asked for, as their game wasn't finished to begin with. \$\endgroup\$ – noClue Nov 24 '17 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Looking at the post mortems of Release Raptors gives me the impression that the problem with that project was the game itself and not the business model behind it. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Nov 24 '17 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @noClue Yours isn't either, otherwise you'd just release the $30 version. \$\endgroup\$ – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Nov 24 '17 at 18:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Draco18s I specifically mentioned that the game would already be finished, just released in episodes weekly, so it's not really the same. \$\endgroup\$ – noClue Nov 24 '17 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @noClue If your game is literally finished then releasing the episodes sequentially and letting people pay $6 now for all five episodes is literally kneecapping your income. If people still have to pay the extra $6 later for the next episode instead, you're just making things annoying for your customers who buy early and kneecapping your income as some of those players won't buy episodes 2-5 later. The whole point of "season pass" type sales is to generate the revenue needed to continue development. If you don't have those costs, then you don't need that type of business model. \$\endgroup\$ – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Nov 24 '17 at 18:56
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Hitman (2016) did something similar.

Square-Enix sold the base game, what they called the "Intro Pack", for something like $30usd. This included the basic content and a small set of missions (I believe something like 10). Then they released monthly "Episodes" which included new locations and missions, each episode was sold separately and was independent from each other so you didn't had to purchase the first 3 to purchase the 4rd, for instance. They costed around $7usd each. In the end they released a total of 5 Episodes and thus completing season 1.

  • Season 1
    • Sapienza
    • Marrakesh
    • Bangkok
    • Colorado
    • Hokkaido

After the season is complete they release both the Season1 pack (all episode but no base game) for around $24usd, and the GOY Edition that includes all previously released content including the base game sold at full retail price; $59.99usd.

I think this model works pretty well, however, it was badly received in the beginning as people are used to purchasing "complete" games, so there were several complaints that the game felt unfinished and unpolished. Usually pricing models that are not traditional or not completely straight forward are perceived in a bad light by gamers, so be aware of that.

Im not sure there is a name for that, but looks like you are trying to do is in fact a "reverse season pass", "anti-season pass"?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This isn't the same case as the asker's problem. The asker is talking about a cheaper game at first that gets more expensive later on (you still get the whole game no matter when you buy it). What Hitman did was just a season pass, nothing special. \$\endgroup\$ – John Hamilton Nov 24 '17 at 6:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree Hitman sticks to the traditional season pass model. Most games that are commercialised through that model start with a full game price and subsequent content addons that you buy independently or through a season pass that gives you access to all when they eventually come out. The Hitman Model sells you a cheaper base game with optional content; not an early access as it's a complete product, but it doesnt sell to full retail price. So the model he describes is basically bundling the entire game + content every time new content is released, but giving it away to early adopters. \$\endgroup\$ – Chepech Nov 24 '17 at 14:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess the question, where your answer either falls apart or not, is: were those individual episodes already finished before the release of the base game? \$\endgroup\$ – noClue Nov 24 '17 at 14:51

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