Call of Duty gets microtransactions

Black Ops II "Micro Items" let players customize weapons, buy more slots for created classes

Activision continues experimenting with ways to monetize the massive Call of Duty player base. In a post on his blog today, Activision community manager Dan Amrich detailed the first wave of microtransactions headed for Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

Starting tomorrow, Black Ops II players on Xbox 360 will be able to download "Micro Items," most notably a variety of personalization packs that include new weapon skins and targeting reticles. For example, one pack will let players make their guns look as if they were wrapped in bacon.

Beyond the weapon customization, Activision will also offer an extra slots pack that doubles the number of customized classes players can save and increases the amount of screenshots and video players can upload using the game's social functions. Finally, Black Ops II players will be able to buy Flags of the World calling card packs, allowing them to show national pride to other players in-game.

Amrich stressed that none of the add-ons will impact gameplay. The add-ons will be priced at either 80 Microsoft points ($1) or 160 Microsoft points ($2). Other platforms will receive the add-ons eventually, though no window for those has been revealed.

The Call of Duty franchise has been the best-selling retail game for years, and Activision has tried a variety of ways to monetize it beyond the initial $60 purchase. While the publisher has said it will never charge gamers for multiplayer, it introduced the Call of Duty Elite subscription service in 2011. Under that plan, players could pay an extra $50 up front in order to receive all the map packs upon release, as well as exclusive content, extra upload space for videos, and other perks. The publisher scrapped the subscription fee last year, making Elite's perks free but stripping out the map packs.

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Latest comments (9)

Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 7 years ago
It begins.
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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart7 years ago
Great idea. Hardcore gamers will be aghast but this is how you keep players engaged throughout the year until the next annual iteration. Importantly it's an excellent way to monetise an older IP you no longer support past the annual season pass. Just look how many people still play MW3 - just imagine if you could upsell those non paying players with trinkets/hats/guns/skins etc. Look at Team Fortress 2. What's good for the goose is good for the gander (though you don't hear people emoing about TF2).
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Max Priddy7 years ago
@Graham - I think it's more down to implementation and business model as a whole vs. simply having them in. Where I think it works to Valve's advantage is the fact that Team Fortress 2 is (at least, for quite a while now) a Free-to-Play game with content constantly being designed by the community as well as Valve, and has created its own ecosystem of buying/trading/selling hats, where the icing on the cake is that you can get hats and weapons for free from simply playing the game, which is why it works.

Black Ops 2 on the other hand, whilst I'm personally not complaining about paying $2 to unlock skins/attachments faster, is a 40/$60 title with paid DLC/Season Pass, and is by the sounds of things recycling goods already in the game for a minor amount of change, where only Activision and Treyarch really win, vs. the Valve model where everyone can win.

Having said all that, Activision's microtransaction model isn't necessarily an evil thing as it's not mandatory to unlock the skins, nor is it really promoting pay-to-win in their game; but it does look like a means of some quick money for old rope vs. making new content and actually earning the price you put on your virtual goods.
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Show all comments (9)
Steve Nicholls Programmer 7 years ago
No thanks.
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Spencer Franklin Concept Artist 7 years ago
And so it starts.../sigh
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Spencer Franklin Concept Artist 7 years ago
@Graham Simpson
Most of the reason is because much of that stuff is community created...the community exists specifically for that and supports that (in TF2). I don't think these two things can be compared... This is just making a grab for more cash via micro transactions.. I hope it fails personally, but if it turns out to be a success for them..hey, who am I to argue what players are willing to spend on.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Spencer Franklin on 12th March 2013 6:26pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 7 years ago
@ Graham
Hardcore gamers will be aghast but this is how you keep players engaged throughout the year until the next annual iteration.
Or companies could do any other number of things. Small DLC that add to the story. Larger DLC that could be sold as expansion packs, then packaged as a GoTY nicely in time for the next installment (Fallout 3/New Vegas). Graphics updates (like The Witcher 2 or Natural Selection 2). Player engagement comes in all forms, and sometimes it's not just about keeping people playing the game - it's about getting new gamers into your IP, or just keeping the developer's name in the consumer's minds. Brand loyalty is something that applies to developers/publishers, as well as IP.

On topic, I'm not at all surprised. I don't want this in every game, but it's to Acti's credit that they didn't jump on this bandwagon straight away.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 12th March 2013 7:16pm

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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam7 years ago
"one pack will let players make their guns look as if they were wrapped in bacon"
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Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve7 years ago
I'm not a fan of this sort of content, but you have to admit that past the choice of doing it, they're doing it right. None of this will impact gameplay, it's just items of convenience and novelty. You don't have to buy it, and your experience wont be degraded by others that do (unless you can't stand the sight of bacon).
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