Just a few weeks after acknowledging the "misstep" of plagiarizing the Floof Fury skin for Call of Duty: Warzone (opens in new tab), Activision is facing accusations of having done it again, this time with a skin that looks remarkably similar to a "Variant" in Midnight Society's upcoming extraction shooter Deadrop.
Variants, in the world of Deadrop, are the players who purchased the first round of early access passes to the game. Among the bonuses granted to them for being first in line are "VisorCortex IDs," which are basically NFTs that grant unique visor skins to those who own them. Think Daft Punk but more overtly martial.
"The VisorCortex acts as your identity within the Midnight Society and can be used as your verified avatar in and outside the community," the studio explained (opens in new tab) in March, before Midnight Society's game had a proper title. "Variants may sell their Access Pass along with their attached VisorCortex ID to relinquish their utility within the Midnight Society or trade VisorCortex IDs with other Access Pass holders without losing their Variant perks."
Fast-forward to this week, when Activision rolled out the new Doomsayer skin for Call of Duty: Warzone and Vanguard. The centerpiece of the skin is a glowing, pale blue holographic skull beneath a loose-fitting grey hood, which people quickly noticed bears a strong resemblance to a Deadrop visor skin. And not just any visor skin, but very specifically the one belonging to Robert Bowling (opens in new tab), who prior to his days at Midnight Society was community relations manager and creative strategist at Call of Duty studio Infinity Ward.
Bowling appeared to acknowledge the similarities on Twitter, writing—without any obvious context, although it was impossible to miss—"At least name it after me (opens in new tab)." And there's certainly no question that the designs look very much alike.
I think @fourzerotwo (Robert Bowling) is going to be happy to see that Activision just added his own skin in #Vanguard 🤡Maybe not... ->🙃 pic.twitter.com/vZTyWIp2pZAugust 16, 2022
At the same time, and with all due respect, both designs are also, well, awfully generic. Skull masks have been around for just about as long as skulls have (I was a big fan of General Kael's (opens in new tab) look in Willow), and in the Call of Duty series since 2009. Ghost's mask (opens in new tab) isn't holographic, but the one worn by Spectre (opens in new tab), a character from Black Ops 3 and 4, definitely is, and so is Stitch's "Corrupted Cranium (opens in new tab)" skin. We're not exactly breaking new ground here, and personally I don't think it's too much of a leap to see Bowling's Midnight Society visor skin as a tip of the hat to his days at Infinity Ward, which inevitably leads to the question of who's really emulating who.
Still, it's hard to overlook the specifics: The luminous blue hue, the hood, and the dark patch at the top of the skull in the Doomsayer skin are virtual dead ringers for Bowling's design. And the Floof Fury situation in July—which at last check Activision still has not acknowledged as plagiarism, or even apologized for (opens in new tab)—does not inspire great confidence that this is all just a strange coincidence.
I've reached out to Activision and Bowling for comment and will update if I receive a reply.