In the old days, video games were locked into a sterile, offline threshold. Super Mario 64 is always Super Mario 64. There were no balance patches, special offers, or mods. The goal was to sell a few million copies and work on a sequel. Games weren’t supposed to last forever.
But in 2016, where so many games are free-to-play and aim for long-term, persistent growth, the universes we play in are changing all the time. Right now, publishers around the world are readying highly specific Halloween seasonal specials for their communities. Some are offering simple treats like new skins or experience bonuses, some are readying new bosses, and some are even coming up with new modes – complete with original art and voice-acting. In the past expansion packs took years to develop and cost as much as a full game itself, but now developers implement content that's only meant to be played for a few days of a year for free. Here are 10 of the more notable Halloween events you can catch over the weekend.
Company of Heroes 2
I like how games care less and less about their perceived realism the longer they've been around. One perfect example: a few months after release, Rockstar went ahead and released a B-movie zombie variant for their otherwise very serious spaghetti western Red Dead Redemption. Company of Heroes 2 is a very good, very sober World War II RTS, but now you can paint your tanks with eyeballs and stitched flesh. You'll also get double XP for the weekend!
Dead by Daylight
The popular-on-Twitch asymmetrical multiplayer survival game Dead by Daylight is probably the most straightforward Halloween game that exists. In it, a handful of hapless victims desperately try to survive against the onslaught of a murderous slasher villain. So naturally, Dead by Daylight is releasing some perfectly-timed DLC which lets you play as iconic Halloween killer Michael Myers, and his equally iconic victim Laurie Strode.
We're all expecting that Destiny 2 will be out in 2017, and maybe at that point Bungie will stop consistently adding new content to their foundational post-Halo experiment. But for now, this is still their baby. Destiny is renewing its end-of-October tradition with its far-future Halloween celebration, Festival of the Lost, which serves as an in-universe Day of the Dead analogue. Expect new quests, masks, items, emotes, and shaders. Apparently you can also do some trick or treating, and some curmudgeon hands out raisins instead of candy. Even in the far-flung future, there is still that house.
League of Legends
League of Legends is the most popular game on the planet, and when you have an entire multi-national company all committed to the same community, you can always expect some new fun stuff around the holidays. For Halloween 2016, League is adding new skins to their ridiculously expansive repertoire (Morgana, Tristana, and Teemo are the lucky ones this time.) Riot is also bringing back their popular "Doom Bots of Doom" mode, which is a co-op League variant that's unexpectedly fun.
Gears of War 4
"Dodgeball" is one of my favorite variants in Gears of War multiplayer, and Gears 4 is bringing "Pumpkin Ball" for Halloween, which is basically a more hectic version of dodgeball on darker maps. The characters will also be sporting giant jack-o-lantern heads, which is the exact sort of macabre, industrial-metal ennui that Microsoft's flagship dude-shooter excels at. If you're going to put chainsaw bayonets on the gun, the players should also look like the bassist in Slipknot. Yeah Gears might not be for the faint of heart, but that's probably the point.
Grand Theft Auto V
Rockstar has made GTA Online their number one priority over the last few years, so naturally they're introducing a Halloween-themed team-based multiplayer mode called "Lost vs. Damned." The name is a clever nod to the Lost and Damned expansion story that was released for Grand Theft Auto IV back in 2009. Players will control angels and demons in an arena with an ultra-fast day/night cycle where angels have an advantage in the day and – you guessed it – demons are more powerful at night.
Heroes of the Storm
Pretty much every Blizzard property is getting something cool for Halloween, and their flagship MOBA is giving you extra XP till November 8th, as well as the chance to earn a Deputy Valla player portrait. There's also a new mount (a giant floating eyeball pad) and a new skin for Xul on the way to the store, which makes sense given that he's a necromancer. Also, whenever a team destroys a core, you get a special cameo from World of Warcraft's Headless Horseman. Cross-pollination, people!
Madden NFL 17
Madden 17's Halloween tack-on isn't nearly as comprehensive as some of the things other games are doing, but I'm still kind of tickled by how weird it is. I mean, it's a football game. Does it really need holiday-specific itemization? Apparently so, because if you play Ultimate Team (Madden's built-in collectible card game) from now until November 4th, you can get special "most-feared" player cards in packs. Those cards will turn into something special on October 30th, and personally I hope that means a version of Richard Sherman with an extra head or something.
Overwatch has been killing it with the seasonal events so far, starting with the Olympics-adjacent "Lucio Ball" back in August. For Halloween, you'll have access to unique skins, sprays and poses, as well as a special cooperative "Brawl" game mode called "Junkenstein's Revenge" that appears to be similar to the zombies mode from Call of Duty.
World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft maybe has the longest ongoing Halloween tradition in all of video games. Every year, players can celebrate Hallow's End, letting you trick or treat at inns across Azeroth and the rest of the cosmos. Once you're bored with that, you can go fight the Headless Horseman, who returns once a year to torment raid groups. It's funny to think that once upon a time, World of Warcraft was the only game on the market doing seasonal events like this.