News – Activision introduces microtransactions, shames non-season pass owners and loses Bungie

Microtransactions sneaked into Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Activision have been in the news a lot this month, and not in a good way. Following their stealthy introduction of microtransactions (including $1 red dots) into Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 two months after release back in December in a relatively obvious (and seemingly successful) tactic to avoid negative reviews (the game still has a comfortable ~84 on Metacritic), they have gone on to introduce a mechanic naming and shaming non-season pass owners with a big yellow warning. Aggressive monetization clearly remains the focus of Activision Blizzard, despite bleeding executive staff, falling stock prices and rightful criticism from Diablo 2 producer Mark Kern over the course of the winter. Surely all this is in no small part due to their decision to continue the Diablo franchise on mobile, as well as following the general trend of the bigger publishers towards centering game design increasingly on microtransactions.

Bungie escapes from Activison

The second half of January also saw Activision lose Bungie, which took the Destiny franchise with them. Destiny Franchise Director Luke Smith expressed Bungie’s continued commitment to the franchise, as well as perhaps veiled reassurance in that they now “… hold its future entirely in our hands.” Perhaps Bungie’s independence will lead them away from the corporate model of development and publishing exhibited by Activision Blizzard, and return them to the great heights they enjoyed with their early Halo games? Only time will tell.

The original publisher-developer contract between Bungie and Activision was supposed to last until 2020, so somehow Bungie have managed not only to break the contract early but also to hold on to the Destiny franchise, one of its key IPs. Interestingly, this development comes only some six months after Bungie received a high profile $100 million investment from Chinese mega corporation NetEase – supposedly in order to allow Bungie to auto-publish non-Destiny games.

We’ll definitely be following Bungie’s new and exciting independence closely.