When I started writing this piece, I wanted to push it out quickly because I was feeling frustrated. But I decided to wait because Treyarch had announced a new update coming on June 25. This update has brought Contracts to Black Ops 4, and now that I see what they offer, I still think this article is justified. The implementation of Contracts is much better than I imagined, even if the rewards are a little lackluster. For individuals who live and breath video games, this will give you an increased chance at earning items in coveted “surprise mechanics.” That being said, tough luck to anyone else who plays for just a few hours a week.
Let’s get to business, shall we?
About a year ago, I wrote a brief summary about why I believed Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 would influence the way fans looked at the franchise for years to come. And let’s be honest, I was right—but not in the way myself or anyone else likely hoped for. I am not going to list every single mistake that Treyarch has made, and if you are (or were) a fan, then you already know what the issues are at this game's core. And before the critiques begin to roll in, please understand that I am level 424 in Zombies, third prestige in multiplayer, and have my finger on the pulse of the Call of Duty community (I am not very high in Blackout mainly because I am terrible).
Treyarch launched Black Ops 4 as a buggy, blue-screened mess, but a lot of people saw through those issues since the potential was so great. It all became clear at the beginning of 2019, as people started noticing how shallow the game was shaping up to be. The stretching of truth in order to push monetary schemes that continually plagues the gaming community haunts Black Ops 4 as well. The black market’s tier system (which is similar to Fortnite’s Battle Pass) was meant to replace the entirety of the loot crate systems for Call of Duty as we knew it. Initially the time to unlock a single tier was ridiculous (to Treyarch’s credit this two-hour unlock was bumped down to one hour). This system in combination with the Black Market Store was seemingly mediocre for the time being, but being able to earn or purchase items while seeing what they were was progress.
Even though players had a grind ahead of themselves, at least there were no weapons in loot boxes at the beginning of 2019. Fast forward to today and we have regular weapon camos, reactive camos, weapons, weapon variants, death animations, Blackout characters, and whatever other nonsense all locked behind a paywall. I think fans expected this to happen eventually, but what is heartbreaking is how each item is spread out individually for every weapon or character in the game. For example, if there is a camo in Reserves that you really want, you have to unlock it for every single weapon in the game. You cannot unlock one version of it and have it for all weapons or for even a category. This strategy combined with the non-duplicate-protected item implementation prevents players from having any significant chance at acquiring what they desire.
To be “fair,” the tier system is still around to unlock items (usually that no one wants). Items such as stickers or face paints, that you will never see in a first-person shooter, are able to earned by playing. Another point for Treyarch is how you can earn a single-item supply crate alongside the tier system. However, as I mentioned previously, duplicate protection does not exist in the store, making all earned content pointless. All the worthwhile items are in supply crates, and the only way to earn them is through spending your hard-earned money or grinding for a ridiculous amount of time. To provide an example of how ludicrous this system is, popular Call of Duty content creator PrestigeIsKey played enough Blackout to earn over 615 Reserve crates. It wasn't until he broke through that number that he finally collected all the new weapons for this operation. To put that into perspective 615 crates would equate to around 327 hours of in-game time. Do you have that much time to play? Here is the link to his video; see for yourself.
Interestingly enough, there is a separate microtransaction system for the Zombies mode. This system is purely slot-machine-based and is much more egregious compared to Treyarch's previous showing in Black Ops 3’s Zombies. While you can earn currency in game, the earn rate is incredibly slow and it takes about three hours of gameplay to earn one spin. If there was a fair way to earn the premium multiplayer weapons and zombie items, fans would not be so up in arms. As I mentioned briefly, the new Contracts system does resemble somewhat of an olive branch, but the branch is broken in the middle with a bandage attempting to shield the break. Black Ops 4 is as anti-consumer as a game can get, and this year seems much worse than usual regarding anti-consumer practices.
This year’s marketing cycle regarding Modern Warfare has been quite strange and hidden from the public eye. Usually by now we have a ton of information, but things seem… odd. Between the lack of marketing and minimal presence at E3, this behavior gives me the idea that something different is occurring in the minds of the corporate overlords. Maybe Infinity Ward and Activision see how unhappy the community is and are planning on making significant changes to their business models—changes that would be beneficial for the long term and not the short-lived financial gain which stabs costumers in the back. We all know I am wrong, though. Recent leaks from TheGamingRevolution and EightThoughts are revealing that the developers of Modern Warfare have plenty of work ahead of themselves and (less than) four months until launch. Infinity Ward are potentially behind, and maybe showing off the game could do more harm than good? Nothing is definitive at this point, however.
It is painfully clear that a lot of people have moved on from Call of Duty, and rightfully so. I grew up with this franchise, and a part of me will always have a soft spot for it. While I am looking forward to other games coming out later this year and next year, I still cannot get over how poor the service for Black Ops 4 has been and likely will be with Modern Warfare. It is clear Treyarch, Infinity Ward, and Activision are not the only companies up to no good, but they are some of the businesses in the spotlight right now that are contributing to the normalization of in-game transactions. I do not want to come off as ungrateful; I truly am appreciative of the creativity developers have and that they bring their imaginations to life. But it seems that microtransactions are hurting more than just the player these days. What needs to happen in order for this exploitation to stop?
What are your feelings about microtransactions in video games? Do you like them at all? What would your ideal system be to ensure that developers and players are both happy?