The Rewards Pass (more commonly called a "Battle Pass") is a rewards system where players usually pay a fee to unlock the titular pass, and then fill up an experience bar as they play the game. Once the experience bar is full, the Pass levels up. Each level has a different reward associated with it, usually a cosmetic.
It's a very common way for game developers to keep their game afloat, and a much less controversial alternative to Loot Boxes, since players can see everything they can get before they buy it (although many games have both Rewards Passes and Loot Boxes).
Rewards Passes are also time-limited to some extent, usually over a period of a few months that lasts the update cycle, with each reward being exclusive to the current pass, making it more tempting for players to buy it, and thus serving as a Revenue Enhancing Device by preying on "loss aversion" or "FOMO" (Fear of Missing Out). If a player feels that they won't be able to unlock their desired rewards before the pass expires, or just wants to get the good stuff quickly, then many Rewards Passes permit directly purchasing levels for an additional fee. It's basically a timed subscription by another name, and with a less forceful method of getting players to invest time and money into the game.
Most games that utilize a Rewards Pass tend to feature a free "basic tier" that is available to all players in addition to the paid tier of rewards, though as incentive to purchase the latter, the free rewards tier usually has fewer, less exciting rewards that are also spaced far apart. In this scenario, buying the paid rewards tier will grant the player rewards from both portions of the battle pass, and levels gained for a free Rewards Pass will be compatible with the paid one: that is, if a player levels the free Pass to level 10 and then buys into the premium portion, they will receive all premium rewards up to that level. Rare is the game that only has a free Rewards Pass, but they do exist.
- A Rewards Pass will usually award players:
- Character skins. These will usually be the most prominently advertised rewards, and the most desireable by players.
- In-game items
- In-game or premium currency (so completing the Battle Pass allows you to earn a partial (or in at least one game, full) refund on its cost)
- Loot Boxes
- Emotes and Victory Poses
- Boosters to earn Experience Points for the pass, or the players' profile.
Games that feature Rewards Passes:
- AFK Arena features Regal Rewards and Champions of Esperia. By collecting Medals of Valor for Regal Rewards, players can earn rare hero soulstones to summon heroes, while collecting heroic merit for Champions of Esperia rewards Hero's Essence. If a Premium Pass is purchased, Regal Rewards will also award a player with Elite Hero Soulstones, Champions of Esperia rewards additional Hero's Essence, and both reward a hefty amount of diamonds.
- Battlerite, starting with the February 2019 "Big Patch", has a Battle Pass that awards skins, weapons, mounts, avatars, poses, emotes, chests, currency, and pets. The pass's level increases by one for each 10 Stars earned. Stars are awarded for completing daily or weekly quests and increasing your profile level. There is also a free pass that has less rewards.
- Chocobo GP uses battle passes to grant access to additional characters and cosmetics beyond what can be unlocked by completing the story mode. Only playing the GP mode advances you up the pass levels; no other mode gives experience.
- Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled had these when Grand Prix events were running, though unlike many of the other examples this game only used the free variant. Players would earn Nitro while an event was running to unlock kart parts, skins, and characters divided up into three tiers (Bronze, Silver and Gold) by completing daily, weekly, and season-long tasks, with the caveat that using certain racers, skins and customization items would add a multiplier to how much Nitro you earned and could complete the pass more quickly. When they ended, players could pay up Wumpa Coins to complete the pass and get anything they didn't earn from the season, and items from earlier seasons eventually got permanently added to the in-game store. The challenges were also kept when Grand Prix support ended but now just award coins for the in-game store.
- Deep Rock Galactic introduced a "Performance Pass" with the update "Season 01: Rival Incursion". Unlike most other games this was implemented as a purely free update with no paid pass and the devs also stated that all of the cosmetic items in it would continue to be available through other loot systems after the season concluded in order to avoid players who didn't complete the pass from missing out.
- Dungeon Fighter Online introduced a fairly rudimentary system called Arad Pass, which rewards some materials, tickets and consumables for clearing randomized daily and weekly missions. You can buy into a paid counterpart called the Royal Pass, which, in addition to unlocking the paid version of the Arad Pass, unlocks Season Missions that give large amounts of Pass EXP and also lets you pick a character on your account to receive Royal Pass rewards. The character chosen for the Royal Pass gets extensive in-game bonuses not related to the Arad Pass itself, such as time-limited endgame gear, a time-limited Creature, a time-limited Title, a time-limited Avatar kit, more rewards from Raids, free Raid entry materials, discounted entry cost on Guide of Wisdom, and +40% Town Movement Speed.
- Dota 2, the Trope Maker, has Battle Passes (previously called "Compendiums") that are used to fund the prize pools of major tournaments. The Pass's level is increased by earning Battle Points by completing challenges, wagering tokens and then winning, or getting tipped at the end of a match. Rewards include cosmetics, announcers, emotes, voice lines, and loading screens.
- Destiny 2 introduced a similar system following the release of the Shadowkeep DLC and switch to free-to-play on Steam in 2019.
- The Division 2: Season passes were introduced starting from the game's second year of service. The free rewards track gives a sampling of whatever new equipment arrived with the latest Title Update, while the paid rewards track includes items that are somewhat harder to farm for, like random Exotics and optimization materials. The paid rewards also include weapon skins, gear dyes, and emotes that are exclusive to one particular season.
- Fire Emblem Heroes has the FEH Pass, a subscription service feature that gave access to things such as special costumes for certain units on a monthly basis, special monthly quests, and other features. The features include a Re-Act function, the Auto-Start function, the ability to form 3 Summoner Supports instead of 1, and Free Resplendent Heroes that given out on every 10th and 25th on every month. The rewards are the exclusive quests which refreshes on every 10th and 25th of every month that give Orbs, Divine Codes, Divine Dew, Heroic Grails, and Aether Stones.
- Fortnite has a free and paid Battle Pass that is advanced by completing daily and weekly challenges and increasing your Season Level. It unlocks outfits, gliders, harvesting tools, Back Bling, emotes, wraps (weapon skins), music (lobby background music) and loading screens.
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection added a seasonal battle pass system in 2020. Unlike many equivalent systems, it is completely free and is not time-limited; items from past seasons are still available alongside ones from the current season. Items are acquired through Season Points, which are primarily acquired by completing weekly challenges, and the items themselves are mostly cut-content and expanded customisation options from previous games (for example, Halo: Reach has the Dummied Out AKIS and Mariner helmets restored for in-game use, and the robotic arm, previously only an option for a single chest armor type, has been expanded for a much wider range of armors), plus some original new content such as weapon skins.
- Halo Infinite adopts a similar battle pass system: fitting a free-to-play game it needs to be purchased this time, but it is once again not time-limited and progress can be applied towards any owned battle pass of your choosing.
- Hearthstone replaced its standard Gold-based reward system with a Rewards Track system in late 2020. Instead of gaining Gold from winning 3 matches and doing daily missions, daily and weekly missions give experience points (and a smaller amount from achievements) towards the Track, which give packs, Gold, or some other reward for leveling up. There's also a paid version of the Rewards Track which awards cosmetic rewards and Golden cards.
- Hill Climb Racing 2: The Premium Pass lets you earn additional rewards every time you reach a point milestone like coins, car parts and costumes at the cost of about 3 dollars.
- Ninjala: The Ninjala Pass provides additional rewards to tier progress that lasts for the season. Five first missions grant a large surge of experience points per day, with special events that multiply points even more. When the pass is maximized, new and more difficult missions reward medals and special stickers for emotes.
- Overwatch famously relied on Loot Boxes as its form of long-term monetization, but during its sequel-expansion Overwatch 2 in 2022, they were abandoned in favor of Battle Passes (in tandem with the game going free-to-play rather than requiring an upfront price tag). One noteworthy effect from this shift was a change in the obtainability of new heroes — the first Overwatch granted all heroes upfront and immediately, no questions asked, while 2 would mildly gate a select few of them behind the Battle Pass — you can simply grind levels and obtain them for free, or you could buy the Pass and obtain them immediately.
- Paladins had free and paid Battle Passes, until it was replaced with the nominally similar Event Pass system. Regardless, you gain experience points for playing matches, completing daily quests, and completing sets of special challenges that unlock Rewards. The Event Pass differs in that the rewards are gotten by doing challenges, and compliment the grind, not being all in one track (mostly loading frames, avatars and currency), while grinding the Event Pass nets you the above rewards, but also chests, announcers, skins, and mounts. Both have a free tier, where a limited selection of rewards could be gained with each level up, but the Event Pass guarantees free players to get a skin related to that pass.
- Phantasy Star Online 2 introduced a system called Mission Pass in 2020. It comes in Free and Gold tiers, with the Gold tier costing Star Gems (a "premium" currency that can be earned fairly easily in-game). To upgrade the Pass, you earn Tier Stars through the ARKS Missions system by completing miscellaneous tasks, such as Daily Missions, Weekly Missions, and Tier Missions (ARKS Missions that only give Tier Stars). The system functions the same regardless of which server you're on, while costs and rewards vary:
- The Global version of the game introduced the Mission Pass first. It costs 200 Star Gems to buy a Gold Pass, but you get refunded a portion of this cost via the Pass itself rewarding Star Gem Tickets. The rewards you get mainly focus on cosmetics, including outfits, CAST parts, hairstyles, and body paints, that were offered at one point in the Japanese version of the game, and you can also earn a Global Currency Exception called Mission Badges gradually by clearing tiers.
- The Japanese version of the game featured the Pass after the Global version got the feature. It only costs 100 Star Gems to buy a Gold Pass, but you do not get any Star Gems in the Mission Pass. The rewards you get mainly focus on cosmetics that were featured in the defunct Taiwanese/Southeast Asian versions of the game and color variants of items that are otherwise difficult to get, as well as miscellaneous booster tickets, Bonus Keys, upgrade materials, and Class Excubes. Mission Badges are handed out but are granted in large batches at Tiers 2, 12, and 22 instead of over the course of the Pass. It is also much easier to earn Tier Stars in the Japanese version compared to the Global version.
- Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis re-introduced the Mission Pass system in a post-launch update; it works similarly to the above PSO2 counterpart, but both servers now get exactly the same passes and mechanicsnote . NGS Mission Passes focus mainly on recolors of NGS cosmetics as well as exclusive Stamps and Accessories; you can also acquire rewards such as assorted materials, N-Mission Badges, Triggers, and Passes like Personal Shop Pass and Salon Pass.
- Player Unknowns Battlegrounds has an "Event Pass" (later renamed to "Survivor Pass") with free and premium tiers that unlocks clothes, parachutes, emotes, and weapon skins. Levels are gained by playing matches and completing missions. The Event Pass's free rewards were time-limited, but due to fan outcry, the Survivor Pass has permanent free rewards.
- Rocket League has a "Rocket Pass" in both free and premium forms that contains rewards such as new cars, paint jobs, and accessories.
- Splatoon 3 has free seasonal catalogs. Catalogs contain special time-limited items, poses, and tags that are given out by Harmony at the Hotlantis store by increasing your Catalog Level, which is done by playing any of the multiplayer modes. While the maximum catalog level is 100, each catalog lasts for three months; which combined with the generous amount of bonus experience you get for your first Turf War/Anarchy Battle/Salmon Run win of the day, means even a more causal player is likely to nab everything before the season ends if they're willing to play an hour every day. If one manages to reach Level 100 before season's end, they can continue to raise their catalog level, at which point they'll receive Mystery Boxes every few levels.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic, as of 2021, has Galactic Seasons, which run for 13 weeks each and serve as filler content at the start of or between updates. All players get rewards, starting with a special companion, but subscribers get limited-time cosmetic weapons, armor, and mounts and free Cartel Coins to spend on the in-game market.
- Super Animal Royale has the "Animal Pass", which offers cosmetics, in-game currency and materials to make more Super Animals in both free and paid tracks. Unlike other battle royales, though, these passes are not time-limited and can be activated after their respective seasons are over.
- Team Fortress 2 has the Jungle Inferno pass, which is needed to get premium rewards from premium contracts. However, it does have a free tier that gives you weapons added in the update (Dragon's Fury, Hot Hand, Second Banana, and Thermal Thruster) without having to wait for a random drop. They're also not time-limited, meaning you can take as long as you want to go through them.
- The annual Scream Fortress events for Halloween also have their own contracts, which give out random Halloween-restricted cosmetics (plus a chance for a bonus item). Unlike the Jungle Inferno contracts these are time-limited, but also completely free.
- Vigor: A season pass was introduced with the Preppers update (1.2), which runs the gamut from cosmetics to weapons and crafting blueprints. The paid rewards track often includes fancier cosmetics plus higher-tier weapons and the blueprints to craft them.
- Xbox One: The Game Pass subscription has a Rewards Pass-esque system called "Quests" - daily, weekly, and monthly tasks which allows subscribers to earn Microsoft Rewards Points and redeem them on real world items, like gift cards for the Xbox Store or an Xbox Live Gold subscription (among other things). The Windows 10 version of Game Pass also has these features.
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