This is a long post navigating the rights/wrongs of FOMO through the lens of Modern Warfare, but here's the TLDR:
Locking content through timed events is an unethical practice that punishes and expects too much of the average player. A byproduct of this is a legion of elite players who are blindly loyal to corporate interests over those of their fellow players. This practice should be curbed for the healthy of society.
Right now I'm really struggling to continue supporting Activision / Infinity Ward after playing Modern Warfare consistently over the past year.
Despite putting nearly 200 hours into the game since launch (which I know is still rookie numbers for some), I have just now learned that there were several "events" (Gunfight Tournaments, Modified Spec Ops missions, Twitch drops, Contraband contracts, etc.) over the past year that awarded exclusive skins and other cosmetics that are no longer available. These events/rewards were never advertised in the weekly emails that I receive from Activision, nor were they included in the mandatory splash screen. Despite playing the game consistently and supporting more than I should have through the online store, I'm SOL and Activision/IW do not have the decency to respond to questions about whether these items might reappear down the line.
Similarly, their online store, where players can purchase exclusive cosmetics, only offer these items in rotating bundles that typically cost $10-$20 each! The value simply isn't there for what you get, especially when typically only one of the several items in a bundle is what prompts the purchase in the first place. Moreover, these bundles rotate in/out on a daily/weekly basis. If you missed something, then again you're SOL with zero insight as to when/if the bundle will become available again. Would it kill them to at minimum provide a schedule for these bundles and to permit the player to create his/her own bundles by selecting the individual pieces? It's not like they're short on cash…
I understand the underlying motives driving these tactics are 1.) to maximize revenue, 2.) encourage early adoption of the game (i.e. at higher prices, thereby maximizing revenue), and 3.) ensure longterm player engagement. It's just that I feel these objectives could be achieved without the harsh consequence of never being able to unlock an item again. And what's the enemy of this strategy? Communication and transparency, as players will be enabled to delay their purchase/engagement if they know the item will be available again. So of course it follows, that Activision/IW play dumb or ignore any questions regarding the availability of limited items. And let's keep in mind, the scarcity of these items is entirely fabricated with the specific design to consume a player's time and money – straight up manipulation, especially when many players have competing needs such as work, school, and family.
If you call out the developer on these practices, the hive mind of fanboys will quickly condemn you for falling out of line. It's your fault for not keeping up, for not pre-ordering, for not purchasing or unlocking something as soon as it was available. While on the one hand, yes, this is true, it's only true in the paradigm that Activision/IW have implemented. This creates classes of players – those with the time/money look down on the rest who did not keep up, and are then indignant when the have-nots speak up. Thus this FOMO system has turned players against each other, and very much creates corporate loyalists out of those who did manage to keep up. I fail to see in what way they would be disadvantaged should all players have access to the same cosmetics/unlocks. There's no inherent value in any of these items, and their scarcity is entirely fabricated. Whatever sense of accomplishment there is in obtaining them should not be dashed away when another player also has them. Or if it does, then that individual is truly being played by those corporate entities that they so vigilantly defend – much to their unknowing detriment.
Maybe I'm getting old, but gaming has become a corrupt and manipulative "hobby." The pure enjoyment of playing a game and competing against others is simply gone. Everything is now about "seasons" and exclusive content, and consumer interests are only served to the extent that they fall in line with corporate greed. I get it – Epic/Fornite developed a killer business model, but it is one that preys on addiction, OCD, and habit-forming behavior. For these companies to adopt those same practices for $$$ is simply unethical and evil. And even the classic titles, like DOOM and Mortal Kombat, that existed decades before Fornite are not immune and have implemented their own FOMO events/unlocks in various degrees.
Part of me wishes I had never encountered MW/DOOM/MK11 to begin with. The more I learned about each game, the more I wished for things that were difficult to obtain and/or not a great use of time. It's hard to separate "enjoyment" from feeding an addiction, as I know many will say time enjoyed it is time well spent. But pure enjoyment should be the product of a pure experience, not mind games designed to minimize the consumer's ability to venture onto other pursuits, let alone other games.
I was lucky enough to stumble upon the new Tony Hawk reissue last week, and I must say it has so much soul and love compared to MW and other AAA titles. At first, I was a bit shocked to see there were no "events" or "seasons" but it was at that moment I realized that the dev/publisher were trying to do the right thing and remain true to the spirit of the original game. I'm sure they lost some revenue due to it, which could compromise the growth of their studio or the release of future titles, but I think they asked and correctly answered the big question: at what cost?
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