Call of Duty publisher Activision is employing a different downloadable content plan for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 this year. Although the new setup is meant to provide players with a more regular cadence of DLC releases, Activision’s all-or-nothing sales strategy for the add-ons is less customer-friendly than it used to be.
In previous years, Activision offered a Call of Duty season pass that covers multiple post-launch DLC packs — four of them released over the course of a year, usually. As you’d expect, it was cheaper to purchase the season pass than to buy the add-ons individually. For instance, the season pass for 2017’s Call of Duty: WWII costs $49.99, while the DLC packs cost $14.99 each (for a total of $59.96).
This time around, Activision and developer Treyarch are offering a package called the Black Ops Pass for Black Ops 4. It will give players a “bonus Zombies experience” named Classified at launch; fans are speculating that Classified consists of a remastered version of Five, a beloved Zombies map from 2010’s Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Here’s what else is included in the Black Ops Pass:
- 4 Additional All-New Zombies Experiences
- 12 Multiplayer Maps
- 4 Exclusive Blackout Characters
“We’re redefining the digital content season for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 by delivering more content with more frequency,” Activision said in an FAQ on its support site. The publisher did not provide a specific rollout schedule, although it seems like the amount of content in the Black Ops Pass will be comparable to that of previous season passes: The first two Call of Duty: WWII DLC packs each contained three multiplayer maps and one Zombies chapter.
The Black Ops Pass is included in Black Ops 4’s three special editions: the $99.99 Digital Deluxe Edition, the $119.99 Pro Edition (a physical package that is exclusive to GameStop) and the $129.99 Digital Deluxe Enhanced Edition. The pricing suggests that the Black Ops Pass would cost $40 on its own, but that’s an educated guess — Activision is not currently selling it by itself. The Black Ops Pass "will be available as a standalone offering at a later date,” according to the FAQ.
Activision did note that if players decide later that they want the Black Ops Pass, they’ll be able to upgrade a copy of the stand-alone game to an edition that includes the season pass. And once the Black Ops Pass is available on its own, owners of physical copies of Black Ops 4 will be able to buy it separately.
Either way, the bigger problem is that Activision won’t be selling any of the Black Ops Pass content individually: You’ll have to buy all of it or none of it.
“The contents included in Black Ops Pass may only be purchased as a bundle,” the publisher said in the FAQ. In essence, Activision is forcing Black Ops 4 players to decide between two unappealing options: forking over $40 (or more) for a yearlong schedule of DLC — sight unseen — or not being able to play any of the game’s post-release content.
It’s a bold strategy; we’ll have to see if it works out for Activision. But it seems particularly risky at a point when many other publishers — including Battlefield 5 publisher Electronic Arts — are ditching the season pass system. (In fact, Battlefield 5’s post-release maps and modes will all be free.)
Update: After this article was published, Activision updated the FAQ to say that it will indeed sell the Black Ops Pass on its own “at a later date.” The FAQ originally said that the Black Ops Pass would not be available outside Black Ops 4’s special editions.