Usually the Bullshit Roundup consists of several stories of industry sleaze culled from recent headlines, but today we’re focusing on just one. Activision’s little stunt with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered deserves a spotlight all its own, because it may be the single biggest liberty taken with fee-to-pay gaming.
The rerelease of Modern Warfare was updated recently to include microtransactions, setting a new garbage precedent in post-sale money-grubbing.
With its December update, the rereleased Infinity Ward classic allows players to directly purchase supply drops in order to acquire cosmetic items. For those preparing an insipid “it’s just cosmetic” defense, you can watch this old Jimquisition episode and forever hold your peace.
The usual weak justifications are in place for this recent move, with news reports already emphasizing how everything can be grinded for in-game by completing challenges or spending Call of Duty Points and Depot Points… whatever those bloody things are. When I last played Modern Warfare, there was none of that fucking bollocks.
By the way, I last played Modern Warfare around eight years ago, because this game is nine years old. It’s a rerelease of a nine-year-old game that quietly smuggled microtransactions into its online mode, and I can’t believe a concept so ludicrous is a real thing. That’s something a parody of the industry would come up with.
It’s one thing to see the sad normalization of fee-to-pay elements within brand new releases, but to witness them shoveled retroactively into an old beloved title from an age before such trash gained traction? Activision has set the bar for “AAA” avarice – a new height for greed and a new low for the games business overall.
Modern Warfare Remastered was already controversial for the shady nature of its release, effectively held to ransom by Infinite Warfare. Activision – which normally keeps its head down and lets EA take all the heat – has really pushed the boat out in its desire to milk as much as it can from this remaster.
Most remasters are sold as complete, definitive editions of the original games, packing in all the downloadable content and expansions that may have followed the initial launch. COD4 is paving the way for publishers to triple down – not just make money by selling an old game with updated visuals, but by tacking on DLC and microtransactions too. Should this pay off, I’ve little doubt that other publishers will attempt it themselves.
I guess I should have seen it coming when Gears of War Ultimate Edition had tacked-on pre-order DLC, effectively disproving the claim of being an ultimate anything.
It was a warning sign that old games are just as susceptible to modern skeeze as any fresh release, and with Modern Warfare Remastered “enjoying” F2P economies, cosmetic grinding, and fucking crafting, we’ve got the dismal message that nothing is too sacred, nothing too “ultimate” to avoid violation by unslaked corporate raveners.
The rampant, unchecked greed on display is almost impressive in its audacity. To sneak freemium bullshit into a nine-year-old game that leveraged its own fandom to sell a completely different game is a masterstroke of sliminess, a monument to Bobby Kotick’s notorious lack of shame. It’s also a nostalgic reminder that, while Activision can look positively saintly in comparison to recent publisher excesses, it still knows how to be the biggest vacuum of integrity in the business.
What’s saddest for me is how this will only further normalize fee-to-pay games in general. As companies continue to up the ante in their indulgent greed, previously indefensible schemes become more palatable because they’re “not as bad as they could be.”
Just like Activision usually looks good in comparison to Electronic Arts, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided‘s horseshit moneymaking doesn’t seem so gross when contrasted with Modern Warfare Rebastard. Personally, I’ll continue to fight the losing battle in maintaining that none of it’s cool, but I know this latest fuckery will only further aid publishers as they slyly work to make microtransactions a banal occurrence.
Are you fucking kidding me, though? Microtransactions in a remaster of a game almost a decade old.
This industry is fucked up.