Activision or Treyarch are doing their best to turn the best Call of Duty game in years into a $110 version of Clash of Clans by combining the worst parts of mobile games with the price of a full-blown AAA gaming title.
After gamers spent $60 on Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 for Xbox One, PS4 or PC — and after many gamers spent another $15 to $15 on the Awakening Black Ops 3 DLC or the Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Season Pass the teams rolled out new weapons.
Normally the addition of new Black Ops 3 weapons would come with excitement and then a lot of fun. Seriously, what’s not to like about a high-powered assault rifle, a shotgun pistol that you can dual wield and a semi-auto crossbow?
The fun quickly faded when we learned that the new Black Ops 3 weapons are not included in the $60 that players already spent on the game and it’s not even part of the new DLC, which would still support Pay to Win, but would at least be more reasonable than the Supply Drop approach.
As it stands the only way to get the new Black Ops 3 weapons is with Cryptokeys. You can earn these at a slow pace as gamers collect towards the 30 Cryptokey Rare Supply Drop. If you don’t want to play for hours to unlock a random chance at unlocking the new weapons, you can always buy Call of Duty Points that allow you to buy Rare Supply Drops at $2 a pop.
There are many factors at work here, which we see in mobile games that offer you a free game then slow down your play to push you towards an in app purchase. Huffington Post examines the psychology of free to play games and the similarities are astounding.
Wearing Gamers Down
Like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush the new Black Ops 3 weapons in Supply Drops relies on the theory of Ego Depletion to wear gamers down to eventually buy Call of Duty Points for a chance at the new weapons.
Ego Depletion, “refers to the idea that self-control or willpower draw upon a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up. When the energy for mental activity is low, self-control is typically impaired,” which leads the user to spend money to get what they’ve been working towards for a long time.
Factor in the special weekend that doubled the Cryptokey earn rate to change player expectations and it’s starting to sound like special Clash of Clans event.
The First One Is Free
Another way that Treyarch and Activision borrow from the mobile gaming industry is with a “gift” of 200 Call of Duty Points when they introduced the system. This sounds like a wonderful offer, a free Rare Supply Drop, but it is there to condition users to spend Call of Duty Points as a shortcut.
If you start any free to play resource game you’ll see this. At the start you get a small supply of resources that the training tells you to use to instantly complete a variety of tasks, instead of waiting 30 to 60 minutes.
Points Not Cash
Couple in the separation of a cash value by asking players to buy Call of Duty Points, that they later spend and there is just enough of a difference that people don’t place as much value on the points as they do real cash. The offer of bonus points also helps complicate the mental value of points in the game.
This pairs up nicely with “price shrouding” which helps prevent gamers from seeing the true cost of owning Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. By building in this option to buy towards new weapons and keeping it from gamers until they’ve already invested copious amounts of time and money into the game there is a psychological push to keep playing.
The Worst of Free to Play Games Gets Worse
This is where the process to get the new Black Ops 3 weapons gets worse, and may actually teach free to play games a thing or two. After collecting $60 to $110 from gamers Activision is not simply offering a pay to win option where you can buy the new Black Ops 3 weapons with COD Points or cryptokeys.
If that was the case there would still be outrage, but it wouldn’t be quite as bad. Even if you spend $40 to buy 5,000 COD Points and open 25 Rare Supply Drops you may not get any of the new weapons. This all comes down to chance, through a Random Number Generator (RNG).
Even though using COD points does not increase your chances of getting the weapons and the weapons are not restricted to the points you still can spend a lot of points and get nothing of use.
Activision has not yet updated the description of Call of Duty Points, which state, “Call of Duty: Black Ops III Supply Drops contain primarily cosmetic items such as Specialist outfits, taunts, weapon camos, and cosmetic attachments.” The FAQ does not mention the new weapons at all.
What Can You Do?
At this point, with $60 to $110 invested in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 it is tempting to fall into the trap of buying Call of Duty Points to get these new weapons, but the best thing to do is not spend any real money on the points.
It’s not clear if quitting the game will have any impact since Activision already collected your money.
If you have not purchased the Season Pass already, you may want to hold off, but for users who already purchased it is unlikely that you will be able to get a refund.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is how Activision will work this into Call of Duty 2016 that is likely coming this fall.
At least Activision is looking out for gamers, the company states, “There is no limit to how many COD Points are purchased.”