With the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s second Operation, we get an idea of the pattern Activision is forming with the game’s post-release support. The conversation around Black Ops 4’s more incremental release strategy suggested the DLC would be released in smaller packages more frequently, compared to previous Call of Duty support schedules. While Activision has the smaller packages side of the operation down, neither the frequency nor the accessibility of said content manages to balance the scales.
So as not to hold anyone to any standard but their own, let’s compare the DLC schedule for Black Ops 4 to developer Treyarch’s previous title, Black Ops III. Black Ops 4 may have launched with more multiplayer maps on-disc (four of which were remasters, to be fair), but the slightly faster pace of content releases post-launch is failing to compensate for the lack of content in each release. On its current trajectory, Black Ops 4 is barely keeping pace with Black Ops III in number multiplayer maps relative to days since launch, and if it continues on this path, the disparity will only widen, as can be seen in the chart below.
This trajectory also doesn’t account for the fact that the sequel’s Black Ops Pass was announced to only include a total 12 multiplayer maps, four multiplayer maps less than Black Ops III. If there were simply fewer maps planned for the game, that would be tolerable, assuming both season passes didn’t go for the same price—which they did.
Comparing the two games’ Zombies map releases doesn’t produce any different of a story. Zombies maps understandably take much more effort to develop than multiplayer maps, so were we to get a new Zombies map in every Operation, that could have potentially covered Black Ops 4’s suffering spread–in quality, not quantity–but as we learned with the reveal of the new Operation Grand Heist update, a new Zombies map won’t hit Black Ops 4 until sometime in March.
Granted, this could mean March 5th, but it could just as easily mean March 26th. With an educated guess that it’ll land somewhere in the middle, we can deduce that Zombies maps are launching about as slowly as they did for Black Ops III–possibly slower, depending on how future Operations pan out.
Black Ops III gets yet another leg up on its successor by virtue of each Black Ops III expansion being available for individual purchase. Black Ops 4, alternatively, forces players to buy its entire season pass or else they are locked out of all future multiplayer and Zombies maps. Black Ops 4 pushes back with its Blackout battle royale mode, which serves as a substitute for a single-player campaign. While Blackout has significantly more longevity than a single-player campaign, supplemented by regular free updates, players don’t need the Black Ops Pass to enjoy any of Blackout’s changes or in-game content, thus doing nothing for the Pass’ value outside of a few skins.
Whether or not Black Ops 4’s Black Ops Pass stands up on its own merits isn’t really the question. What’s more important is determining if Black Ops 4’s post-launch content strategy is better for the community than Black Ops III’s, to which the answer is a resounding “no.” Black Ops 4’s season pass will ultimately result in less content, dropping at a negligibly different rate, but for the same amount of money. It hides behind the label of being a live-service game, stuffing a predatory battle pass system in our face, seemingly to fabricate the illusion that it didn’t start off as a full-priced, $60 title. Gamers like flexibility, comprehensiveness, and equivalent bang for their buck, none of which have applied to Black Ops 4 post-launch.