EDIT: Activision has begun to censor and ban viewers on the Call of Duty Twitch channel for voicing their disdain for the Black Ops pass and for posting the #SayNOToBlackOpsPass hashtag.
Recently, the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 season pass details were revealed, which has provided for some interesting commentary from the community. The season pass, now referred to as the Black Ops Pass, is taking an “all-or-nothing” approach to obtain downloadable content which means players will not be able to purchase individual map packs like with prior titles. The decision has not gone over well with fans of the franchise, with many criticizing publisher Activision for implementing an outdated-DLC model that does more harm than good as it divides the player-base with paywalls.
Normally, Call of Duty titles have always released downloadable content in content packages which featured new maps for the multiplayer and zombie modes. If players didn’t want to spend larger amounts of money on the packs individually a season pass was always available, which combined all of the packages for a cheaper price. However, there was no mention of that season pass when Black Ops 4 was announced which lead players to speculate that the DLC would be free in a similar to style to Epic Games’ Fortnite. This speculation has now officially debunked on Activision’s website.
In a FAQ section of the publisher’s website, the contents of the Black Ops pass was described as follows:
- “Classified,” a bonus Zombies experience, available at launch
- 4 additional all-new Zombies experiences
- 12 multiplayer maps
- 4 exclusive Blackout characters
In response to a question about whether players could buy parts of the Black Ops pass separately, it was made clear that this was not possible. The content included within the Black Ops pass has to be purchased as a bundle.
Call of Duty fans have noted though that the current backlash directed at Activision is not just about the “all-or-nothing” approach that they’ve taken with Black Ops 4, but on the continued application of “pay-to-win” practices of paid-post launch content that the company has applied to the franchise for the past few years. Members of the community have taken a stand against the company stating that these practices are abusive towards consumers, deceptive, and sections off whole segments of the player-base from one another. They’ve been further outraged by supposed access to 4 retro maps that are guaranteed to be playable in Black Ops 3 upon pre-ordering Black Ops 4, which have been reported to have 0% of players being inserted into those maps which makes it difficult to play on any of them.
Recently, it was announced that major Call of Duty rival Battlefield would no longer offer paid DLC through a premium pass this year with Battlefield V. Electronic Arts did this in response to the massive success of games such as Fortnite and Overwatch, which offers all of their post-launch content for free to all players. More games within the industry are moving forward with this approach as it is highly profitable and does not divide the player-base as a result of different matchmaking profiles like what paid for maps often have been known to do. Major Call of Duty pundits such as CharlieIntel’s Keshav have argued that Activision does need to reconsider this move and follow suit with the rest of the market before it is too late. Keshav also cited a similar instance in which Activision’s main competitor Electronic Arts received similar backlash after last year’s Battlefront II, which prompted the company to reconsider how they develop their games and how they produce content. The negative backlash towards Battlefront II sent ripples across the industry as a cautionary message from consumers and has been a big influence on numerous companies that are moving towards free post-launch content to avoid similar losses. This is also why Electronic Arts decided to phase out the traditional Premium pass that is typical to Battlefield games and utilize the new Tides of War mode to roll out new content for Battlefield V.
The backlash are further validated by the fact that Black Ops 4 is going to continue the trend of having lootboxes available for purchase, which have been used in previous Call of Duty titles such as WW II, Infinite Warfare, and Black Ops 3. These lootboxes contain unique cosmetics and upgrades for weapons and characters. The practice of applying microtransactions such as these have been cited as hugely profitable for companies like Activision, which made over $3.6 billion in 2016 from players purchasing them. That should be enough to afford producing playable free content for players at launch.
Activision has always received criticism about Call of Duty’s map pack model as they have always been divisive for players and this situation has only been further complicated this year due to this announcement, which has segmented the community into two groups. This more restrictive take on “pay-to-play” or “pay-to-win” has only made things more difficult for Activision, which has desperately been trying to improve the diminishing sales numbers of Call of Duty titles every year since Modern Warfare 3. Vocal critics within the community on numerous forums like the subreddit r/BlackOp 4 are currently pushing heavily to make themselves heard to Activision that these practices are not acceptable in today’s market. They have since created a hashtag #SayNOToBlackOpsPass which is currently trending on numerous other subreddits and is starting to gain traction on Twitter and Youtube. Hopefully, Call of Duty developers who frequent these forums take these criticisms into account and correct this mistake.
It is not currently known how Activision is going to handle this current controversy as we draw closer to the release of Black Ops 4, which is just five months away. In most cases, critical backlash such as this would garner a response but the publishing giant has been relatively silent with no real solutions being offered to remedy the concerns of consumers. This may not be a surprise though for Call of Duty players, though. Activision has established a reputation within the industry and among consumers as a company that stands by their unpopular business decisions such as lootboxes, a refusal to sell Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered separately at the launch of Infinite Warfare, and now this recent “all-or-nothing” approach with downloadable content in Black Ops 4. If Call of Duty die-hard players are hoping for a positive outcome with this year’s latest installment to the franchise then they may be waiting awhile. It is likely that this game will have a reception similar to Infinite Warfare, which was negatively received by the fanbase and sold poorly in countries like the United Kingdom where it’s sales were down 50% from Black Ops 3 the year before.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will launch on October 12th for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.
What do you think of this news? Are you outraged with Activision? Let us know in the comments below!