Spec Ops Survival, a multiplayer mode in the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is exclusive to the PlayStation 4 version of the game for a full year, and fans are predictably not happy about it. The news was enough to dampen excitement over earlier announcements that the game would feature crossplay and that most post-launch content for Modern Warfare would hit all platforms simultaneously.
Timed exclusive content for Call of Duty is certainly nothing new. Prior to 2015, Microsoft had a deal to bring timed exclusives to Xbox One, but with the release of Black Ops 3, developer Treyarch Studios announced a similar deal with Sony instead. Since then, PlayStation versions of Call of Duty have had access to certain content, such as DLC and Special Orders that can reward cosmetics, before other platforms. Some editions of Call of Duty saw console exclusives that lasted up to a month, but Black Ops 4 kept its DLC exclusive to PS4 players for just seven days. Fans generally supported the move, with many calling for publisher Activision to stop the practice of timed exclusives altogether.
In many ways, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a step away from timed exclusives. Previous games had several maps, modes, and other content locked behind exclusivity deals, but only one exclusive has been announced for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare so far. As first reported by Eurogamer, that one piece of timed exclusive content is the Spec Ops Survival mode, and it’s not coming to Xbox One or PC until October 2020, much longer than the typical exclusivity period. Spec Ops mode, which appeared in Modern Warfare 2 and Modern Warfare 3, features a set of short co-op missions, and that mode will be available for all Modern Warfare players at launch. The timed exclusive Spec Ops Survival was only previously in Modern Warfare 3, and it pits players against waves of enemies.
It’s all good. 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.— Taylor Kurosaki (@taylorkurosaki) September 24, 2019
Unsurprisingly, Call of Duty fans aren’t happy about the announcement. Players immediately took to the game’s subreddit to vent their frustration (often in not-safe-for-work terms). One common sentiment in the thread, expressed by users like SituationCornflakes: “Anyone who is not a PS4 owner isn't getting the full game, they shouldn't be paying full price.” Many PS4 players are also complaining that the move, seemingly made to attract players to that console, is actually making their experience worse by separating them from the rest of the fanbase. While some vitriol has been directed at the game’s developer, the harshest words are being reserved for perennial target Activision. After receiving some angry comments on Twitter, Modern Warfare narrative director Taylor Kurosaki tweeted that the exclusivity decision was “above our pay grade,” which may suggest that the developer had little say in the move.
Whatever led to Spec Ops Survival becoming a timed exclusive, it’s a tough decision to justify, especially when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has finally introduced crossplay. Any benefit that Sony and Activision get from the deal comes at the cost of a compromised game, a tarnished reputation, and a fractured playerbase that undercuts the extremely popular crossplay addition.