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In context: Few of the video game industry's business practices are more controversial than paid loot boxes. This form of in-game monetization has been widely-criticized by gamers, developers, lawmakers, and the media for years, but to no avail for the most part. Publishers continue to include the boxes in their latest titles despite the backlash, and from a financial perspective, it seems to be working out pretty well for them.
That's why today's announcement from the Call of Duty team was a bit of a surprise. According to a developer blog post, the latest entry in the franchise – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (not to be confused with 2007's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) – will not include any form of loot boxes; at launch or beyond.
Instead, the CoD team claims, Modern Warfare will introduce a Battle Pass system; similar to what you might find in Dauntless, Fortnite, or other popular online shooters. Season Passes and "a la carte" multiplayer DLC map packs have also been scrapped, so that "everyone can play together" at all times.
Unfortunately, the Battle Pass system is still a bit confusing. The CoD team says that players will be able to earn all "functional" content that has any sort of impact on Modern Warfare's game balance, including (but not necessarily limited to) weapons and attachments, by simply playing the game. The tricky thing is, the team also says the Battle Pass will have both a "Free" and "Premium" stream of content, and we're not sure what form that content might take.
Ideally, it would be cosmetic-only, to prevent Battle Pass customers from gaining an advantage over "Free" (those who have purchased the $60 base game) players. However, the Battle Pass announcement's wording is rather vague.
Some of our more skeptical readers might consider the possibility that everything might technically be achievable through normal play, but at the expense of increased grinding versus compared to simply shelling out cash for the Premium Pass (a la Battlefront 2's release-day monetization system).
Still, that's only one possibility, and it could end up resembling Apex Legend's system instead, which includes purely-cosmetic rewards. Either way, we'll be reaching out to the Call of Duty team for clarification on this system, and will update this article if we receive a response.
The final detail worth discussing regarding this announcement is the timing of the Battle Pass' launch: it will not arrive on Modern Warfare's official release date. Instead, it will come "later this year," likely in November or December (though that part is speculation from us).
The Call of Duty team's reasoning for this delay is as follows:
First and foremost, we are all focused on making the Day One experience awesome. Second, it's important to us that everyone who is playing Modern Warfare has the chance to work their way through the new game and unlock all the rewards that are waiting for you. We expect to launch this system for Modern Warfare later this year.
There are certainly plenty of other reasons a publisher (or developer) might wait to introduce monetization into their game (such as avoiding early review mentions or temporarily dodging the "in-game" purchases ratings label), but we have no way of knowing whether or not any of them apply here; not without seeing the Battle Pass system in action for ourselves.
Regardless of how the Pass shapes up in the end, the system will undoubtedly come as a breath of fresh air for many players who have grown tired of loot boxes. If you're one of those players, you can pre-order Call of Duty: Modern Warfare right now on your platform of choice for $60. The title launches on October 25.