Season Pass, Revisited

Two months ago, I was pontificating on the Clash Royale $5 “Season Pass” scheme, and the broader context behind this type of microtransaction.

This month, I have completed my third Season Pass purchase in a row. That $15 is more Supercell has seen from me in almost two years of playing Clash Royal, so clearly they are doing something right. But what changed in my thinking?

Floors and ceilings. And defined value.

If you browse any of the Personal Finance subreddits out there, one of the frequent topics is renting vs buying a home. What is correct for your specific scenario is, of course, specific for your scenario. One of the interesting lines that comes up though is this: rent is the most you will have to pay a month; a mortgage is just the minimum. As any homeowner knows, you have to cut a check to the bank every month and then pay for whatever shit may have broke in the meantime. Last summer, for example, we discovered dry rot in the roof by way of water leaking down pipes into the basement. You might come out ahead in the long run with a house, but that depends on running a long time.

In games like Clash Royale, the payment ceilings are effectively nonexistent. Most of the time, you are paying cash for random results and could end up spending $100 or $1000 for whatever it is you want. With that much uncertainty, it is better to… spend nothing. So I have been, for years, minus some 10x value offerings. Those had been great deals, but they were not real floors either – just chests and gold and random goodies that got me a leg up in the front door, so to speak.

The Season Pass is a true Floor. For $4.99 you get X, Y, and Z. Someone broke it down back when it first released but there was some extra value above and beyond the defined benefits. For example, unlimited resets on some of the Challenges. Sure, that effectively means “you get all the Challenge rewards.” But you could technically get all the Challenge rewards if you play well enough. With the Pass though, the anxiety is gone. I can play a few rounds while watching the baby, because if I have to put the phone down I won’t be screwing up my only shot at completing the run.

Much like with Humble Bundles, there is a relief that comes from knowing one small payment obviates any “need” to pay more money for the month. You don’t have to think about it anymore.

Of course, it is all a mental trick devised by mercenary psychologist-economists to get people to part with their cash. Nobody “needs” to pay any money to Supercell, and the “value” that comes from the Season Pass is, in part, derived from the fact the company has hitherto been miserly with normal rewards. If, if, you have been worn down by the unceasing barrage of unfettered capitalism though… well, the Season Pass is not the worst possible capitulation.

It sure as shit is going to get you farther than $5 will in Hearthstone.

Posted on September 23, 2019, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Since we read the same subreddit often, another aspect of buy vs rent is that your mortgage will never increase (outside of taxes), while your rent will go up. The big gain here is if you can just afford your house initially, after your first pay raise it gets easier. If your rent increases along with your pay (or worse, faster), your situation doesn’t improve.

    As for CR, the thing they need to work on is the skins. You only need so many tower skins, so they need to figure something else out in terms of the big cosmetic on offer.

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    • Good points about rent, especially in terms of getting raises from a job… although most people barely get raises higher than inflation anyway.

      The aspect that never gets much consideration though in PF is opportunity cost of the down payment (and any other major purchases). For example, I had stashed the down-payment for a future house into a Vanguard ETF. Pulling that money out three years ago has made me acutely aware of how much it cost me to purchase the home I did – something like 11% per year. Not all years will be that great, but the 30-year average is still 7-8% after inflation for S&P500.

      Meanwhile, my home will not appreciate anywhere close to that number. It will take me 5 years to get to a break-even standpoint not counting lost market gains from the down-payment, also not counting roof, furnace, AC, windows, etc etc etc. In 10-15 years? Yeah, the “investment” will start to pay off a bit. But you have to be real happy with the town you live in and the job opportunities it affords, as otherwise you take a huge loss moving before 5 years.

      Also, fuck mowing grass.

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      • I think PF would argue that both the gains on investment and the gains on a house are unknown, so can’t be counted on too much. For me personally back in 2007 or so, the house we bought and sold 3 years later went up 60%, plus back then the first-time buyer credit was 8k. That return of course dwarfs the return had the money stayed in the market. But of course a house can drop in value, just like the market can, so each situation is very different.

        Hire people to mow the grass. It’s one of the best QoL changes you can make, and cost-wise its not that big a deal.

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      • I’ve definitely hired mowers this year, with the baby and all. Still, that’s ~$70-80/month maintenance that would not exist with apartments.

        That’s great about your home appreciation, but it doesn’t work in my (relatively low COL) area. The house I bought 3 years ago is cheaper than it was sold back in 1996 (inflation-adjusted). Trulia says it’s worth $20k more than we started, but the actual price in my area has not moved up or down in twenty years. This is not our forever-home anyway – bi-levels are terrible for older people – so I’m just hoping to break even by the time we decide to move. Regardless, it has been, by far, my worst investment.

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      • House value is somewhat illusory, since you can’t choose to sell and not rebuy – you have to live somewhere. I guess you could rent, but that’s really just spending your profits. You have to move to another market to truly realize the gains.

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