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Let's Talk Battle Passes: Part 2 - Value

by Scott Fine on 03/29/22 12:26:00 pm   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Welcome back! This time we’re talking about the value of a battle pass. If you haven’t read through my part one talking about battle passes, it’s a good place to start to get you up to speed. This is going to be a little math heavy, but I’ll break it up so it’s easy to digest. Without any further ado, let’s get started!

When players purchase a battle pass, they are buying a few rewards at the start and the opportunity to obtain more rewards. As battle passes require player engagement, the total value of the battle pass isn’t the same as the initial buy in price. The total value of the battle pass is the value of all the accumulated rewards within the battle pass, meaning everything from what players unlock at level one to level hundred, or whatever the max level is, and the effort required to unlock them. How do we figure this out you might ask? With a little bit of math!

Fortnite*

The monetary value of Fortnite’s battle pass is fairly easy to estimate.

1 Level = 150 V-Bucks

100 levels = 15000 V-Bucks

Battle Pass Purchase Price = 950 V-Bucks = $7.59

1000 V-Bucks = $7.99

1 V-Buck = $0.00799

Total for BP = 15950 (15000 from leveling, 950 from the initial buy in) V-Bucks = $127.44

We get $127.44 by taking the 15950 V-Bucks determined above and converting it into its cash equivalent. By taking the smallest currency pack in the store ($7.99) and dividing it by the amount of V-Bucks you get (1000 V-Bucks) you can determine the value of a single V-Buck. We use the smallest pack to calculate this as the larger packs frequently have bonus currency inside of them, making it much more difficult to make an accurate estimation. From our calculation, we can assume the value of a single V-Buck is $0.00799. Then we simply multiply the $0.008 by the amount of V-Bucks it costs to unlock and max out the battle pass, which is 15950 V-Bucks. This leaves us with a value of $127.44 for the full battle pass. Using this same logic, we can determine the total value of just about any battle pass.

*Full disclosure: I'm sticking to the main battle pass for Fortnite. They have some bonus pages as well, which result in a doubling of the value of the BP. But the rewards are so spread out and not typically the rewards users are chasing within the battle pass. I won’t be diving into those pages at this time. Also, I’m not taking the reduced prices by purchasing the 25 levels at once. While it’s likely that this amount is the actual base amount for the rewards, I don’t want to muddy the water any more than I have to since we’re digging into some gnarly math and the logic is the same.

 

Destiny 2

Following the same logic as before, let’s estimate the value of Destiny 2’s battle pass.

1 Level = 100 Silver

100 levels = 10000 Silver

Battle Pass Purchase Price = 1000 Silver = $9.98

500 Silver = $4.99

1 Silver = $0.00998

Total for BP = 11000 Silver = $109.78

 

COD: Warzone Battle Pass

1 Level = 120 COD Points

100 levels = 15000 COD Points

Battle Pass Purchase Price = 1000 COD Points = $9.95

200 COD Points = $1.99

1 COD Point = $0.00995

Total for BP = 16000 COD Points = $159.20

 

Halo Infinite

1 Level = 200 Credits

100 levels = 20000 Credits

Battle Pass Purchase Price = 1000 Credits = $8.98

500 Credits = $4.49

1 Credit = $0.00898

Total for BP = 21000 Credits = $188.58

 

You might ask, why do I care? Well, when balancing rewards, studios don’t want to lose money on spenders. By taking the cost to purchase the battle pass and how much it would cost to level up the battle pass all the way using only hard currency, we can get an estimation of the value of the rewards within the battle pass.

How do we take this a step further? We can use this information to estimate how much the System Designer believes a specific item is worth. In the case of a linear battle pass, it’s a little bit trickier to figure out the value of each individual item. This is because some levels have rewards that are vastly less valuable than others, even though the clearly more valuable reward appears earlier on in the track. On top of this, the XP progression requirement for most passes is a flat amount. Frequently, they’ll just need 1000 XP to progress to the next level regardless of which level it is. While this makes it easy to charge a flat amount to level up, it creates unreliable estimates for the value of each individual item. In the case of a linear pass, it’s likely designers will use some tricks to make it a bit more manageable on their end. Tricks like grouping rewards into sets of ten that take up various percentages of the total value creates a progressive increase to the trend of rewards without necessarily making every single reward better than the last. It also feeds into a better experience as players need highs and lows to truly have a fun gaming experience and progression. But that’s getting a bit too far off our original discussion. Linear-style battle passes are fascinating and a lot of fun to balance, but, like I mentioned before, “And then there’s Fortnite”:

You’ll notice Fortnite assigns different star values to different items in the battle pass. Thus, while the requirement to level up stays the same, the value of each of the rewards in the battle pass is detached from the direct progression curve. This allows us to approximate the value of each item in the battle pass based on the price in stars.

Using some research, math, and logic, we come up with this:

  • The value of 1 V-Buck is $0.00799

  • 1 level awards 5 stars.

  • 1 level costs 150 V-Bucks

  • 5 stars must cost 150 V-Bucks

  • 150 V-bucks costs $1.20 (It’s actually $1.1985 but I’m going to round to make life cleaner)

  • 5 Stars must cost $1.20

  • 1 Star must cost $0.24

Using these numbers, we can estimate the value of each of the items in the battle pass:

  • 1 Star Item = Valued at $0.24

  • 2 Star Item = Valued at $0.48

  • 3 Star Item = Valued at $0.72

  • 4 Star Item = Valued at $0.96

  • 5 Star Item = Valued at $1.20

  • 6 Star Item = Valued at $1.44

  • 7 Star Item = Valued at $1.68

  • 8 Star Item = Valued at $1.92

  • 9 Star Item = Valued at $2.16

  • 10 Star Item = Valued at $2.40

  • 20 Star Item = Valued at $4.80

If you’re sharp, you’ll notice that if the user purchases 100 V-Bucks through the battle pass using their stars, it costs 5 stars despite the inverse operation requiring 150 V-Bucks to obtain 5 stars. 100 V-Bucks are roughly valued at $0.80, whereas the player is putting in $1.20 worth of resources. That means they’re losing $0.40 in every transaction. It’s likely the developers did this to offset the cost of the bigger rewards, thus making the star requirement for the big rewards less. In this way, the user that finishes the battle pass will get the full value, whereas the one which doesn’t will get a reduced value. It also reinforces that my numbers are estimates and not perfect. When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you know that developers sometimes make small tweaks like this to make for a better experience overall while keeping the economy balanced.

We’ve done a lot of talking about the value of an item from a designer’s perspective. Funny thing about that, those are the designer’s own estimates of what a player would value the item at. This is where it gets a little tricky. There is how much the designer believes an item is worth to the players, and how much a player believes an item or pass is worth. The player’s value of an item can stem from any number of sources, a few examples being it looks really cool, it helps them to perform better in PvP, or even it just was the first item their older brother had trouble getting. It’s going to be unique to each individual, but a good starting point is to make sure most of your bases are covered by thinking about Bartle’s Player Types. By thinking about how an item will be valued by different types of players, you’ll be able to more accurately estimate it’s value. A weapon great in PvP will appeal to one type of player, but is unlikely to be a must have for another. Whereas hard currency will appeal to almost everyone. But we’re getting a little off topic, back to math!

By comparing the values of the items within the battle pass with the value to buy your way through the battle pass, we can keep our battle passes balanced and from blowing out the economy. If the battle pass progression rewards are valued by the designer at a much higher value than the value the player has placed on the items within the pass, players won't complete the pass. It becomes too expensive or too much work to unlock the items, thus losing the studio money and churning players. If the items in the pass are valued lower by the designer than the player, then players will just buy their way through to the item or quickly grind for it. This loses the studio money and engagement as the players were willing to spend money or work in only a quick burst to get the item, and thus ran out of content quickly, got bored, and churned. So it’s really important to make sure the values are as balanced as possible. Mind you, you’re not going to get it perfect the first time you design a battle pass. Games like Fortnite and CoD have multiple seasons of player data that they can use to reinforce their theories on how much a player values an item. This will allow them to balance better than a game that is introducing a battle pass for the first time. Just do your best, collect data, and tweak the next season to be more balanced using what you’ve learned about your player base.

That’s it for this time, not too long in length but a little heavy in the math department. I hope you enjoyed this post, and if there is demand for it, I’ll continue the series next time talking about estimating the difficulty to progress through a pass, an even more math intensive post.

I’ll see you next time.

Scott

If you enjoy posts like this one, you can check out more like it on my portfolio/design blog


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