Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Season Pass has been revealed, offering an all-or-nothing approach to downloadable content whereby players will be unable to buy individual map packs. The move has sparked outrage among members of the Call of Duty community, with many criticizing Activision for implementing an outdated DLC model that divides the playerbase with paywalls.
Historically, Call of Duty games have always released DLC in content packs featuring new maps for multiplayer and Zombies modes. A season pass was always available - combining prices of all the future map packs into a single, reduced sum - but as there was no mention of it this year, fans had begun to speculate that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 was moving away from paid DLC.
This, of course, turned out not to be the case. In a FAQ on Activision’s site, the contents of the season pass were detailed:
- "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 buying parts of the DLC separately, it was made clear that “No, the contents included in Black Ops Pass may only be purchased as a bundle.”
It’s worth noting that the backlash Activision is experiencing in response to the Season Pass isn’t entirely centered around the all-or-nothing approach this year, but also on the continued implementation of paid post-launch content itself. Many fans feel that instead of sectioning off one half of the playerbase from another with the Season Pass, Call of Duty should follow the lead of Overwatch which offers all post-launch content for free, or even Battlefield V, which will have no Premium Pass this year.
The criticisms are perhaps made more valid by the fact that Black Ops 4 will feature lootboxes, containing cosmetic upgrades to weapons and characters. Microtransactions like these bring in huge revenue for Activision (over $3.6 billion in 2016 alone), so it should more than cover the costs of pushing out free post-launch content for players.
There has always been criticism about Call of Duty’s map packs dividing the playerbase, and, while this has been improved this year by only dividing the playerbase into two groups, the more restrictive pay model has arguably only caused bigger issues for Activision. Critics have been incredibly vocal, with the majority of posts on the relevant subreddits (which Call of Duty devs regularly use to interact with fans) being dedicated to the topic.
It will be interesting to see how Activision deals with the controversy. On the one hand, outrage on this scale seems to necessitate a response from the publishing giant. However, Activision have earned a reputation for stubbornly standing by unpopular choices (such as the refusal to sell Modern Warfare Remastered separately at launch) so those waiting for a happy ending to this backlash may be waiting a very long time indeed.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will launch on October 12 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.