Is It Time to Hold Activision Accountable For Exploiting Gamers?

Activision is currently under a mountain of scrutiny after it was revealed yesterday that the Spec Ops sub-mode ‘Survival’ returning to Modern Warfare will be exclusively available for PlayStation 4 until October 1st, 2020. An entire year after the initial launch. Needless to say, a big chunk of the Modern Warfare community is furious with Activision (and Sony) for locking off a part of the game for hundreds of thousands of PC and Xbox players.

In an apparent sequel to 2017’s Electronic Arts lootbox scandal, it has also been rumored that supply drops in Modern Warfare will also include weapons. While we reported on the lootboxes earlier this month, many suspected that the lootboxes would be cosmetic additions only. But reliable leaker and YouTuber TheGamingRevolution tweeted yesterday mentioning the supply drops as well as a supposed “scrap” system that was later removed from the game.

With publishers like Activision and EA continuously under fire for unfavorable monetization practices, it begs the question: Is it it time to hold companies like Activision accountable for exploiting gamers?

The angry virtual mob of outraged gamer’s are now racing to social media platforms like Reddit and Twitter to voice their concerns. Places like the dedicated /r/modernwarfare subreddit are exploding with memes (and serious posts) about the apparent exploitation scheme of Activision with one user asking fans “Who is cancelling their pre-order after this Spec-Ops news?” while another gamer suggests “If you’re going to take out a portion of the game for certain platforms, then the game needs to be cheaper on those platforms. Period.”

Meanwhile fans are also taking to Twitter to voice their opinions. Activision hasn’t publicly replied to complaints from fans (we will update this story if/when they do) but gamer’s are even going as far as cancelling their pre-order. The hashtag #preordercancelled is back from the dead, after being a popular hashtag at the time of the Battlefront II backlash.

Besides publisher Activision, developer Infinity Ward also has taken a lot of flak for the exclusivity deal, but Infinity Ward Studio Narrative Director Taylor Kurosaki was very clear that the developer had nothing to do with this decision.

We have tried our best to have an open dialogue with our players from day one. We understand letting that trust down. These are complicated decisions that are above our pay grade. Please know we want what’s best for all our players.

– Kurosaki on Twitter

Kurosaki is stressing that the decision is “above our pay grade” in multiple Tweets. In other words, Infinity Ward is clearly suggesting that this is a deal made by Activision and Sony, and that the game developers themselves have nothing to do with it.

This is not a first for Activision
Gamers that have been a part of the Call of Duty community for a while may recognize this odd situation from an incident earlier this year. Gradually, lootboxes were added to 2018’s Black Ops 4 and those ‘surprise mechanics’ (as EA calls them) not only featured cosmetic items, but also actual weapons that could give you an edge on the battlefield. Such a system has ‘pay-to-win’ written all over it.

Fans were understandably quite furious that micro-transactions were added to the game and subsequently again took their protest of the changes to Reddit and Twitter. And you guessed it, Black Ops 4 dev Treyarch pointed to Activision as the culprit. In a revealing interview by Kotaku, multiple employees blamed Activision for the money-grabbing lootbox feature.

In interviews, many [devs] said they were just as frustrated with publisher Activision’s never-ending quest for increased revenue, and they were frustrated with the lack of influence they had on it,” as paraphrased by the medium after a visit to the studio.

And speaking of gradual implementation of controversial features, Call of Duty: WWII (2017) by developer Sledgehammer had also stirred up some heated conversation surrounding the Supply Drops – Call of Duty: WWII’s lootboxes – that would fall from the sky in a populated multiplayer lobby, with everyone standing around and being ‘forced’ to watch other players unpack their new goodies.

The controversy surrounding Call of Duty: WWII was the distribution of lootboxes on the historical beaches of Normandy in the resupply headquarters, with many calling it a ‘gross’ way of handling the monetization of a ‘serious’ and historical game. Sledgehammer Games stood behind Activision stating that “the design of the Headquarters space and its purpose as a resupply beachhead was inspired by actual history. With the train tracks and harbors bombed, much of the Allied operations came through Normandy after the June invasion secured the beach as a base of operations in France. “

In conclusion, Activision is no stranger to being criticized as a cash-grab company with the inclusion of (many iterations of) monetization practices. With the latest controversy it appears to be the last straw for many fans of the franchise. And now, after multiple years of outcries by fans, Activision might finally get the same, devastating public hanging as Electronic Arts received. But we’ll let you be the judge.

Is it time for something to be done about the devious monetization practices by these publishers? Let us know what you think in the comments below or visit us on Facebook and Twitter.