This week, the title and setting for Call of Duty 2017 was confirmed by publisher Activision.
Call of Duty: WWII signals a literal return to the series roots as a the World War II setting will once again take center stage. Not since 2008 and nine Call of Duty entries ago, have we seen such a setting.
While many are praising the supposed new direction for the franchise, others are still cautious about what recent inclusions to mean for a game truly trying to emulate the feel of the past. More specifically, what impact will the inclusion of supply drops, weapon variants and faster-paced game play have on a title moving back to a setting anchored in simplicity?
And while a reassurance that “boots on the ground” gameplay will be returning to the franchise has eased many fans, Sledgehammer Games and Activision Publishing still have to counter the largest hurdle to success for this year’s Call of Duty; winning back the trust of fans.
As someone who has been heavily enveloped in the Call of Duty community for the better part of 7 years, I can tell you that my trust in Activision and its developers has eroded significantly in the past 3 years. The inclusion of supply drops and a microtransaction system with a remarkable impact on gameplay has been implemented with what I would describe as malicious intent.
Call of Duty was already a game that charged a much higher price to entry than comparable shooters such as CS:GO and more recent titles such as Overwatch.
CS:GO costs $15 (when it’s not on sale) to access all of the game’s maps and modes that have been steadily updated over the past five years. Overwatch costs $40 or $60 depending on the version you buy and includes all new heroes, maps and modes as they are released.
Call of Duty costs $60 for the base game and $50 for the extra maps every single year.
All of these prices are prior to the microtransactions each game features. CS:GO has crates which can be earned through play or bought outright. These crates can be opened with keys which vary in price depending on the crate they are opening. Items in these crates offer no gameplay changes and only enhance items cosmetically.
Overwatch features a similar lootbox system that allows players to earn boxes over time that contain cosmetic items for their characters. These items also offer no gameplay altering changes.
Microtransactions in Call of Duty feature cosmetic items such as character outfits and gun camos but also contain game-altering inclusions such as ranged weapons. These items originally existed in the form of $4 purchasable DLC or as an inclusion in the yearly in the game’s season pass. More recently, these game-changing items have only been available randomly through supply drops or in rare exceptions, they can be obtained through heavy time investment by building up in-game currency.
Why is this long-winded comparison important? Transparency.
The communities of both CS:GO and Overwatch has known exactly what kind of microtransactions and DLC their respective games would feature since day 1. Call of Duty has changed their system for microtransactions every year for the past 5 years, and almost never has these changes positively impacted the consumer.
Both in the case of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Modern Warfare Remastered, early adopters of the titles were told nothing more than cosmetic items would be featured in supply drops. In both instances, within a few months statements promising no ranged weapons would prove to be blatant lies.
This recurring series of broken promises and misleading of consumers has turned formerly dedicated players like myself away from Call of Duty. I simply don’t trust that the game I pay for will be what was clearly advertised more than a month after launch.
This problem has created a greater rift than 3D movement or a futuristic setting over could, When a company lies and misleads consumers over and over again, consumers lose faith in the development and yearly release of new games, regardless of the apologies made or bridges rebuilt.
The staleness the Call of Duty series has fallen into doesn’t help the situation either, as more enticing and trustworthy experiences have been aplenty in recent years. Newcomers such as Titanfall 2, LawBreakers, and the aforementioned Overwatch are clawing away at previously unwavering Call of Duty players. Not to mention that the most recent entry into the Battlefield franchise, Call of Duty’s most direct competitor. Is absolutely stellar.
If Sledgehammer Games and Activision hope to capture both the financial and critical success of the past, steps will need to be taken to assure players like myself that microtransaction schemes won’t be the focus this time around. I understand that the gaming industry is a business, but Activision shouldn’t be acting like an abusive boyfriend that keeps smacking his girlfriend around, only to bring her half-dead flowers and a promise that he’ll do better next time.
2017 will be the deciding year for the Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty: WWII will either reverse the trend of downward games sales, or fall victim to to fed up fans and a microtransaction system that treats consumers like grunts instead of generals.