The Call of Duty community is in an uproar over Activision's plans for Black Ops 4 DLC, which will see post-release multiplayer maps locked behind a "Black Ops Pass". The pass will include a "bonus Zombies experience" called Classified plus four more "all-new Zombies experiences," four exclusive Blackout characters, and 12 multiplayer maps. As numerous unhappy threads on the Black Ops 4 subreddit have pointed out, that's going to split the community between those who are willing to pony up for the pass, and those who are not.
"Black Ops 4 has the potential to be one of the greatest games in the franchise. Unfortunately, despite the great game it looks to be, Activision is taking a step backwards by dividing the community with a MASSIVE paywall which many can't afford," as one user, Stroook, put it.
"The community is made of of millions of people coming from different backgrounds, ages, and groups. There are youngins who can't afford to beg their parents for $15 DLC let alone a $40-50 'Black Ops Pass' [pricing of the pass hasn't been announced] on top of a $60 dollar game. There are those who can't budget enough for more than one AAA game. Many can't afford the $100 dollar paywall Activision is creating."
Making the situation even more egregious, individual DLC releases will not be available for purchase separately: The Black Ops Pass will be available for standalone purchase, but "the content included in the Black Ops Pass may only be purchased as a bundle," the Black Ops Pass FAQ states.
The unhappiness is compounded even further by the fact that Black Ops 4 does not have a single-player campaign, meaning that people who buy it will be doing so entirely for the multiplayer action. "After announcing no single player (and im a big fan of the story from all three campaigns) I had my doubts about buying this game," another redditor, peachyfourlife, wrote. "But no FREE dlc?! You want me to pay an extra $50 (and yes we know it'll be $50) for 12 maps that should already be on the freaking game?"
Treyarch responded to the furor with a message saying that it is "very much listening to your thoughts, comments, and ideas." It gave no indication that it might reconsider the situation, however.
"We are absolutely committed to supporting the entire community with a slew of free, post-release content that will extend the Black Ops 4 experience with more new ways to play than we’ve ever done before," the studio wrote.
"With Black Ops 3, we’re three years after release, and we continue to support it with new content and continuous updates—and we’re not even done yet. Our commitment to the game has maintained engagement… and Black Ops 4 has far more post-release updates planned for the entire community. In fact, it’s a game that was built for expansion. Launch day is just the beginning of a long journey."
The FAQ says something very similar: "We’re redefining the digital content season for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 by delivering more content with more frequency. In addition to the release of Multiplayer maps, Zombies experiences, and Blackout content, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 players can also expect in-game content and themed events, creating a robust content season."
That fails to address the root problem, however: If you don't buy the pass, you can't play on those additional12 multiplayer maps. In a multiplayer-focused game like Black Ops 4, that's a big problem, and the responses to Treyarch's post reflect that.
"Paid DLC (season pass which was renamed to Black Ops Pass) in addition to the microtransactions which are extremely unlikely to be cosmetic-only throughout the game's lifespan [is the problem]," TheEternal792 wrote. "It wouldn't be so bad if 1) the game still had a full single player experience, and 2) if the rest of the gaming industry were still in this era. I'm not saying this would be acceptable if the game did have a single player, but without it, there's even more justification to be upset."
There's still time for Activision to reverse course, as Black Ops 4 doesn't come out until October 12. I wouldn't hold my breath, but pressure to open the multiplayer maps to everyone will come not just from the Call of Duty player base, but from its chief competitor as well: Electronic Arts said in May that all maps and modes for Battlefield 5 will be free for everyone.