Call of Duty may have become the most successful and mainstream shooter franchise to date, but that doesn’t mean the developers are catering to the masses as opposed to the most dedicated. With Black Ops 2, several new systems and features have been implemented that the average player will never see. But for those who make a career of online multiplayer, the motivation for reaching Prestige just got more interesting.

Treyarch has now confirmed that reaching Prestige – essentially the apex of experience, after which point the player starts back at the beginning – will no longer remove the earned benefits upon completion. Not all of them , at least. Weapon levels and unlock will now persist, allowing players to “pick up right where they left off.”

The change may seem like a no-brainer to those who have much experience with ‘Game Plus’ modes seen in other recent video games, but in the world of online multiplayer, the trick is harder to pull off. Where making one’s way to Prestige had previously given players the option of cashing in accrued experience for tokens or badges (to show just how seasoned a veteran they were) reaching the highest level of multiplayer with Black Ops 2 will now be doing away with the punishment of having to largely start back at square one.

The explanation comes from Design Director David Vonderhaar, who mentioned via Twitter one particular ‘bug’ returned to him from Black Ops 2‘s testing:

“Just got this bug from QA. ‘Weapon levels are given after unlocking a gun that was leveled up on a past level progression.’ That’s what we call NAB. Not a bug. If you Prestige and unlock the gun, you’ll pick up right where you left off. If something has been a certain way a long time, the assumption when it doesn’t work the way it has in the past is that it is a bug.”

While not exactly confirming any extra rewards for reaching the upper echelons of experience levels, the admission does give a bit of a nod to the most dedicated of CoD fans. That isn’t to say that the fan base needs to be catered to or convinced that Black Ops 2 will be moving the series farther into eSports territory, since Treyarch has gone out of their way to prove that fact already. With integrated Livestreaming and commentary functionality and a desire to encourage more cooperative team gameplay instead of simply Deathmatch, Black Ops 2 will likely be gaining attention from the most devoted players on both the PC and console.

Of course, even if Call of Duty didn’t have the mammoth fan following they currently enjoy, the eSports crowd only includes a minority of the online community. For players who are merely looking forward to spending an hour or two a day embroiled in combat in any of the new Black Ops 2 multiplayer maps, this news is undoubtedly a pleasant surprise. If nothing else, this announcement (along with the incredibly promising ‘Pick 10’ system) indicates that Black Ops 2 stands a much better chance of being widely adopted by the online competitors than some past, divisive releases.

Whether reaching Prestige will bring any new bonuses aside from a lack of penalty hasn’t been fully explained, but expect to hear more before too long.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 releases November 13, 2012 for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. A Wii U launch is also planned.

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Source: David Vonderhaar (via MP1st)