The overwhelmingly positive buzz surrounding Call of Duty: Modern Warfare since its early summer announcement has likely felt like stepping into a time machine and returning to 2007 for many, but this week's ongoing drama has put a massive damper on players' excitement for the upcoming shooter. With launch looming only a month from now, it's uncertain if Activision and Infinity Ward can recover lost ground in time to save the game's sales figures.
Even through most of the month of September, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has been generating massive hype with its stellar multiplayer beta, giving players a taste of the franchise's all-new Ground War mode. However, it would hardly be another annual Call of Duty release without inciting pre-release outrage among potential customers at some point, and this year's controversy first came in the form of reports that the game will include pay-to-win loot boxes containing otherwise unobtainable weapons. If true, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would hardly be the first series entry to do this, but vocal fans are fed up with the unfair practice. To make matters worse, it was recently announced that PS4 players will enjoy exclusive access to the wave defense Specs Ops mode for an entire year, leaving players locked to other platforms seething.
Serving as developer Infinity Ward's best lens into how the core Call of Duty community feels about announcements, leaks, and more, the r/ModernWarfare community on Reddit has been the greatest hotbed of discussion and debate amid Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's first scandals. The majority opinion is that rumored loot box-exclusive weapons are, to paraphrase user -Apollo_, "absolute bullsh-t," while others, including Infinity Ward's own art director, Joel Emslie, call for patience and understanding in the face of such claims when they've yet to be confirmed or denied. Others, still, argue that publisher Activision has timed the maligned announcement of timed exclusivity of Spec Ops for PS4 players as a diversion from the loot box controversy, with user CarlosVOfficial reminding players, "it’s okay to be mad about survival mode," but to keep in mind that predatory monetization schemes threaten to "infect" the overall multiplayer experience.
Sony's exclusivity deal with Activision granting PS4 players a year of privileged Spec Ops access has, in fact, come to overshadow loot box rumors since its announcement, but it's doubtful that was a calculated result on Activision's part. The goal leading up to a major AAA release on this scale is to minimize bad press, not amplify it. Additionally - as made clear by the popularity of prolonged discussions over microtransactions like all of the aforementioned - if there's any group of consumers more than capable of juggling multiple complaints at once, it's the gaming community, so there's little need for worry that new controversies will erase others on their own. Furthermore, unlike unproven whispers of loot boxes, the exclusivity issue is based on official information. It's equally important that Sony, who so often goes unchided when it enjoys timed exclusivity deals like this, catch flak for a practice that has as little of a place in gaming as pay-to-win tactics.
There's still a stretch to go before Call of Duty: Modern Warfare deploys on October 25, and until then there are still some details yet to be shared, such as next week's Spec Ops deep dive. If Infinity Ward intends to clear the air, they should do so sooner rather than later.