It seems like a lifetime ago when the whole Star Wars: Battlefront II loot box scandal happened. For those who put it behind them, the outrage basically boiled down to EA being too greedy. Star Wars fans were eager to buy a fully-realized $60 game, only to discover that the the most crucial content (including Darth Vader, the literal face of Star Wars) was locked behind a huge amount of in-game points. Or, as the corporate overlords seemed to be saying, you could just pay real-world money and have Vader on day one.
That was the final straw for many gamers, the act that showed the age of micro-transactions had reached an unforgivable point. The resulting pushback took a huge chunk of the game's sales, made EA almost abandon the game, and even inspired some governments to look into banning loot boxes. It looked as though the video game industry learned an important lesson that day. The problem is, as a rising Black Ops 4 issue shows, the lesson was taken the entirely wrong way.
Activision, publishers of the Call Of Duty series, seems to be eyeing an exploitative, micro-transaction based unlock system of its own for Black Ops 4. A very detailed post on the Black Ops 4 subreddit explains that the game launched without a hint of these micro-transactions.A battle pass system was just recently snuck in, one that on the surface mimics Fortnite's. The difference is, Black Ops 4's Black Market puts its items behind much steeper unlock conditions.
The poster did the math, coming to the conclusion that moving up one tier in the Black Market will take two hours. And that work will only net one reward, usually something minor like a sticker or emote. To get to the higher tiers, the ones that actually offer game-changing items like weapons, will take around 200 hours of playtime. Even worse, these items have limited-time availability, meaning those who don't put in the time might lose out on certain weapons. Or, and here come the corporate overlords again, you can pay extra money to have them.
The kicker to all of this is that players cannot equip gear until they obtain the full set. So those low-tier unlocks are useless until the player grinds or pays enough to get every piece, one-by-one.
The author of the lengthy post believes that this is equivalent to a bait-and-switch, and it's hard to argue against them. It certainly looks as though Activision knew this progression system would be received negatively, and so decided to delay it until after launch to avoid a Battlefront II situation. However, no one from Activision has chosen to comment on the post or the articles on sites like IGN and Forbes that cover it.
It's hard to look at the success of Fortnite and say battle passes aren't the future of multiplayer games. But like many things, it's all in the execution.