Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 introduced a major patch yesterday, but one of the new features has fans outraged, as developer Treyarch has been accused of introducing pay-to-win elements to the game's Blackout battle royale game mode. Blackout was expected to be the answer for Call of Duty's lagging multiplayer representation when compared to giants like Fortnite, but the game mode has done little to make headway into the battle royale genre and has instead been embraced as an alternative direction for pre-existing Call of Duty fans.
Concerns over pay-to-win mechanics are nothing new in the video game industry, but many AAA developers are hesitant to include them for a number of reasons. First, the increased exposure AAA games receive means that pay-to-win elements become more heavily scrutinized by the general public, which can lead to a negative perception of a studio's reputation that could impact sales. Second, and perhaps most important, is that developers have learned from the missteps of companies like EA's microtransaction scandals, and the practice of pay-to-win itemization or elements has been gradually fading away, save perhaps in mobile titles.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has gone pay-to-win in Blackout, however, and fans are suitably upset. In Treyarch's introduction of the new mechanic, which is called Blackjack's Stashes, there's a restriction in place that makes it so that players can only use the weapon they get from them if they've unlocked it themselves in Reserves, which are Black Ops 4's loot boxes. Here's the exact definition of how the new Blackout feature works:
"Blackjack's Stashes. Each player will be able to unlock one of Blackjack's Stashes per game, which contains all the Black Market weapons in your inventory. For instance, if you've earned the Vendetta in the Contraband stream, it will be available for you to grab during a Blackout match in one of Blackjack's Stashes."
The problem stems from the way these weapons are being implemented broadly. Players can't pick them up from fallen enemies, and they won't spawn anywhere on the map. Some of Blackout's best weapons will now be available only to people who have unlocked the gun in the Black Market Reserves, which are notoriously hard to grind in a free-to-play fashion. People without those weapons and without the many hours free to acquire them will now be forced to buy them with real-world money or be forced into a disadvantageous position in Blackout before gameplay ever starts.
The Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 subreddit is on fire, and justifiably so. Nobody wants to play a competitive multiplayer mode where players can buy advantages over others. That's been consistent pretty well since the advent of online gaming, and especially when companies first tried the practice many years ago. Nothing has changed regarding that - save for the fact that more gamers play now, and their voices are a lot louder when they've been slighted by developer greed. Treyarch may scale back or change how Blackjack's Stashes work - we certainly hope so - but in the interim, it seems like Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout mode is now officially pay-to-win.