Those who have been actively playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 this week know that microtransactions have been added to the game. Microtransactions became a dirty word in the industry and culminated in the massive fan backlash over their customer-gouging implementation and unfair use in EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2 last year. Does this inherently make all microtransactions bad? Not at all. Publishers and developers are constantly seeking additional revenue streams to compensate for the enormous production value that goes into modern video games.
So, the question then becomes – when do microtransactions sour on the player base of any particular game and does Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 fit into that somehow? The answer, I believe, is more straightforward than some have made it out to be. In fact, it has everything to do with marketing and how it is communicated to the public. Fortnite is a free-to-play experience. But, should players want to, they can spend money on battle passes to unlock character aesthetics and challenges. This has always been clear from the get-go. In fact, making the game free-to-play makes gamers more inclined to spend money on the battle passes (which is obviously the business strategy).
From the get-go, Black Ops 4 implemented a tiered system called the Black Market. Simply put, as players play the game, they’d slowly unlock a new tier that contained content such as an emote, face paint design, banner, etc. “Slowly” is the key word here as it has taken me quite some time to unlock additional tiers. It felt like a watered-down version of Fortnite’s battle pass system. This is all well and good, until timed content is thrown in the mix such as the Halloween “event.” Various emotes, emblems, and face paint designs were available during this limited run. I was determined to unlock everything. The dancing homunculus emote is the one I had my eye on. Essentially, a homunculus is summoned that dances humorously with your character. It spoke to me.
Halloween was upon us which triggered me to jump back in and play even harder before the event wrapped up. To my surprise, I saw that an in-game currency system (CP) was implemented. Players could then purchase in-game currency in varying degrees. What was the currency used for exactly? CP is to be spent unlocking tiers in the Black Market. Now, is this as heinous as the pay-to-win scenario that plagued Battlefront 2? Not in the least. But, does it put a bad taste in my mouth? Absolutely. Clearly, the sluggish progression of unlocking tiers as players engaged match after match was meant to entice the purchase of CP in order unlock tiers before timed events wrap up.
I am not the only person to have noticed this. Forbes published an article that shared my feelings on the matter. Players on social media have taken notice of the change. It’s not subtle and it certainly was noticeable as we near the end of the Halloween event. Is it a reason to quit playing Black Ops 4? Absolutely, not. As you can see in my reviews of the competitive multiplayer and Blackout mode, the game is good fun. There is no game-breaking pay to win scenarios. It simply boils down to messaging. I had heard nothing of microtransactions prior to receiving my copy of the game. The Black Market function, although slow, seemed like a fun addition to the progression incentives Call of Duty is known for. Then, microtransactions happen and make it all feel a bit disingenuous.
What are your thoughts on the new microtransactions for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4? Do you share my distaste for their introduction? Or do you think I’m needlessly whining about something that’s entirely pointless to overall gameplay? Whatever the case may be, I’d still be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. Let me know in the comments below.
Accountant by day, video games enthusiast by night. Somewhere in between all of that, I’m a husband, dad, and generally a giant man-child, too. If a game is all about action, there’s a safe bet I’m playing it. I started laying waste to virtual worlds as a youngin’ on the ol’ Atari and haven’t stopped since.