Starting with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Activision has delivered game DLC to PlayStation 4 users first, leaving Xbox gamers in the lurch. I don’t mind being a second-class citizen, but this is ridiculous.
As I write this, I’m still waiting to download the Salvation DLC (downloadable content) for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. This is the fourth and final major DLC deliverable for the game, and as with previous map packs, you comes as part of the $60 Season Pass, or as a standalone $15 purchase. It’s supposed to be available today. It isn’t. At least not yet.
So here’s the thing.
When you think about the one year delta between the release of one Call of Duty game and the next, you can see how releasing four DLC packs—essentially multiplayer map packs with four new levels each—over the course of that year helps you extend your enjoyment of the game. That is, the game comes out in November with whatever number of multiplayer maps. And then, just as you’re getting tired of those maps, a new set of four maps arrives. This happens once a quarter.
(The COD map packs DLCs also include expansions to the Zombie experience too, by the way. But I spend most of my gaming time in multiplayer.)
That was still the case this past year. The difference, of course, is that, this time, Xbox One gamers (and Windows PC gamers, too) received each DLC drop about a month after those on PlayStation 4. Big deal, right? Sure, the DLC arrives a bit late on Xbox One, but at least it arrives.
The thing is, the timing of these delayed drops has pushed us up against the release of the next Call of Duty game. With the Salvation DLC arriving today on Xbox One—it was delivered to PS4 gamers back in early September—we literally have only four weeks to go before a new COD arrives. So I, like many other gamers, will have far less time to experience these new maps than was the case with previous games and their DLCs.
I don’t remember the exact schedule, but the first Black Ops 3 DLC didn’t arrive until early 2016. So while there is a one-year gap between game releases, Activision is really only giving itself 10 months to ship four DLCs. The whole schedule is just off.
Two other factors combined to make this even less satisfying. For starters, the DLC maps for Black Ops 3 have been of notably low quality, with some obvious exceptions. And Activision has always made it really hard to play just new maps: I can choose from special DLC playlists in multiplayer, but I can’t actually choose the game-type. (I prefer Hardline Team Deathmatch only, which is one of the more difficult versions.) So I often get stuck in games I don’t enjoy playing.
I’ve spent a good chunk of the past decade really digging into each Call of Duty game in turn. But this past year has been marred by delayed DLC, which often turns out to be of low quality. And then I can’t play the game types I want to play.
So I have a PlayStation 4, and I’m getting a PlayStation 4 Pro. And this past year, I’ve done something I’d never done before: I bought the latest Call of Duty game—and all of the DLC—on PS 4 too. You know, just to remind myself what a first class experience is like.
A couple of observations.
First, the game looks and plays no different across the two platforms. Lots has been made about how the PS4 is graphically superior, or whatever, to the Xbox One, but I have never once seen that with this particular game. That said, the next COD will look better on the PS4 Pro. That could literally trigger a major change in how I play COD over the coming year.
Second, while it is possible to switch back and forth between the Xbox One and PS4 controllers, I very much prefer the Xbox One controller layout, and find the placement of the left stick on the PS4 controller to be awkward. This might be familiarity, I know. But I’ve spent a lot of time with Black Ops 3 on PS4 this year and it works. I just prefer the Xbox One.
Finally, yes. I literally spent $240 on Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 this past year: $60 for each game (Xbox One, PS4) and $60 each for the Season Pass on each. That’s how important COD is to me.
And yes, getting DLC early—or “on time”—is in fact important if you really care about a game. I never really considered the ramifications of Microsoft’s previous arrangement with Activision when I was benefiting from it. But now that it’s been taken away, I can see more clearly that this kind of exclusivity is terrible for gaming generally. Activision is literally sending the message to an audience of 20 million that they are not as important to them as this other audience. How much more could I care about this franchise?
So, I’ve already played Salvation on PS4. I’ve seen the cute picnic map, and the awesome Old West remake of one of my favorite COD maps ever. I just wish I could have played them, and for more time, on Xbox One. You know. The video game platform I actually prefer.
Boo, Activision. Boo.