The following piece has been sitting in my drafts for well over six months, but I never quite got around to publishing it. Yesterday however – after reading Shelby’s excellent piece about a similar thing – I was reminded of its existence, and thought that, actually, if I published my piece, just maybe it’d add to the general chorus of disapproval at Activision’s abhorrent behaviour and perhaps, possibly, that that chorus may then encourage them to do a bit of soul searching, see the error of their ways, and ultimately become a kinder, less greedy set of dirty robbing bastards. Lolz – I jest, obviously. I published it for the rantz, innit!?
The last couple of paragraphs are new, and were added to reflect recent developments since the original draft was written, and I am indebted to Shelby for bringing them to my attention.
Honestly, I’m not normally one to complain about every little thing. Or big thing, even. To start with I’m British, and we’re normally not dead keen on making a fuss. When I was in the US, for example, I ordered breakfast, which came complete with a really generous serving of bacon (seriously, you guys really love Bacon, eh!?) despite my specifically asking for it not to (having been veggie for 20+ years). Did I send it back? Hell No!! I hid the bacon in a napkin like any respectable Brit would do, ate the rest (whilst trying to avoid wayward pig juices) and then later, when asked later if everything was OK, replied with the obligatory (and cringingly overly-enthusiastic) “Brilliant, thanks!” because – as a nation – that’s pretty much how we roll.
I do go off all rant-ey in writing from time to time though (I am human) and today my subject will be Activision. Perhaps tellingly, I’ll be about the billionty-twelfth person to pick up this theme (when I Googled Activision Customer Service, the autofinish thing rather amusingly came up with variations of… ‘can suck my balls’ after typing in the first word) and the publishing behemoth is quite the bete noir of some gamers, it would appear. Indeed the exact themes I’ma touch on today have already been covered quite thoroughly, but, like, fuck it. I’ve never claimed to be original.
Anyways, allow me to set the scene. Back in the US, only a few short hours after the aforementioned breakfast (and possibly a little high on hydrogenated animal fats after two decades of abstinence) I found myself in Best Buy – a mecca for anybody who likes stuff with plugs on it. Or technology. Or games. I’d already gone a bit daft (my trolley contained my new PlayStation VR, amongst other things) when I reached said games and was having a quick look-see at what was on offer. Games ain’t cheap anywhere, but thanks to exchange rates and import taxes and whatnot, they’re quite a bit cheaper in the US than in Brazil, so, with the rationale that I was actually saving money, I ended up going to fucking town! With bells on. At one point, I even did the whole ‘sweep an entire shelf into the shopping cart’ thing (which feels exactly as great as you’d think it would, by the way), and only when I realised I already had some of those games did I adopt a (slightly) more discerning approach to loading up my cart.
As I began to crash however (those Animal Fat come-downs are the worst, ammirite!?), I was suddenly hit with a chunk of buyer’s remorse, and it became apparent that even my more discerning approach wasn’t actually that strict. Thus began the painful, decidedly less fun activity of, like, putting stuff back – even games I didn’t already have. Boo, Hiss etc. At this point, I became aware of the fact that there were two different versions of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare – one featuring just the most current game, and another, slightly pricier version with CoD: Modern Warfare Remastered thrown in. The difference was around $20, and because the game was fun the first time around, and because it was one of the few current games with PS4 Pro specific improvements (oh yeah, there was a PS4 Pro in the trolley too), I went ahead and bought it, thinking I’d got a reasonably good deal.
Despite the box promising me the ultimate entertainment package and (here’s the important bit) explicitly stating that said entertainment package was accessible from “ALL” regions, when it came to downloading MWR, I received a message informing me that, actually, it was Region Locked and that I was shit out of luck (or, you know, words to that effect). Now, there are issues with PS4 regionality, and I frequently find I don’t get some of the add-ons that come with certain games, but I’m not normally that bothered about not getting Day One type bonuses and such. This being a full game, however – and one I’d paid good money for – I was slightly less blasé about it, so I immediately set about trying to fix that shit. I sent an email to PlayStation, who informed me it was fuck all to do with them, actually (which isn’t strictly true, but whatevs…) – and they suggested I contact the Retailer. Having already returned from the US, taking it back to Best Buy wasn’t the most cost effective option, so, given that, and given the fact that Best Buy didn’t actually print the box for Infinite Warfare, I figured I’d take my issues to Activision themselves.
Thus began a fair few hours of fun spread over several days, and a fair few hours that ultimately exposed some of Activision’s fundamental disrespect for us Gamers. Again, I’m not the first person to have issues with them – but whilst I’ve often had a kind of “that’s taking the piss a bit” reaction to some of Activision’s decisions, I’d always been in position to not let it directly impact me (for example, just not buying a given game that represented poor value for money etc). This time, not so much.
After explaining my issue (a millionty-twelve times), and after sending Activision a series of photographs that proved I, like, existed or some shit, Activision’s solution was….. To suggest I set up a separate, US based PSN account. Seriously. A good two hours was taken up by a rather circular conversation in which I pointed out that I shouldn’t have to do that, that their packaging was clearly misleading, and that, at the end of the day, all I was after was what I’d already paid for, so actually, I’d just like a download code that worked, thankyouverymuch; and where they responded with a ‘we understand your concern, we’re sorry you feel like that, we’ve made a note of your issue…… But we recommend you set up a US based PSN account’ – to which I responded with…..well, you get the picture. Eventually, after incorporating a bit of legalese into my argument – throwing in a few more ‘not as advertised’ type buzzwords – I managed to successfully pass this particularly insistent end of level baddie, and got told I’d have my issue moved up the chain of command. All I had to do was frequently log into Activision’s Customer Service webpage to check for any developments.
In fairness to Activision, I actually received an email not that long after, and it contained a new download code that should’ve worked with my UK PSN account. Given the code was accepted first time, I figured that the few days it had taken to sort out were a bit of PITA, sure, but, given it’d eventually been sorted, all’s well that ends well, right!?
See, after waiting three days for the Game to download (because my ISP’s also a lying sack of shit), I loaded up Modern Warfare Remastered ready and willing to get all Shooty-Shooty and shit. About 20 seconds into my attempt to be all I can be however, my screen went opaque, and I was asked to insert my Infinite Warfare disc. I vaguely remembered reading about this at the time it’d been announced, and I remembered it precisely because it’d generally been considered a dick move. To sum up, Activision had decided because, like, Activision, that in order to play MW Remastered, you’d need to have your Infinite Warfare disc physically inserted into your PlayStation. “Ugh…Activision” I exclaimed, but at this point it was mainly because I just couldn’t be arsed to go upstairs and get the disc. Because I actually did have it though, it was more of an inconvenience, and after retrieving it (and having a bit of a breather after the unexpected exercise) I popped the disc in and – once again – sat poised, ready to fuck shit up. I mean, it took a while, but I got there in the end, right!?
Because now, whenever I try to load up Modern Warfare Remastered, instead of fast, frenetic FPS action I getz the same “insert Infinite Warfare disc” message. Over and over again. Even though the disc is fucking inserted. I mean, it’s right there you fucking fuckers, in the fucking PlayStation.
Obviously, that’s all shitty and annoying anyway, but more so because it’s just so needless and unnecessary – and it ultimately exposes Activision’s general dickwad-ery. The company knew the original game had a large and enthusiastic fanbase, but clearly their decision to remaster it wasn’t intended as anything other than a way to milk those fans for every last cent they could. Wanna play this game you really loved the first time around? Great, now pay $20 for it…. Oh, and another $60 for this other game that you might not give a shit about! Have you done that? Excellent, now make sure you keep hold of that other game you might not give a shit about, because you’re shit out of luck if you want to play the game you do want without it. The first thing’s bad enough – but it is, arguably, at least in line with the general trend of offering various “deluxe” options and whatnot these days – but the second thing, and the thing that’s actually stopping me play a game I’ve paid for, is just a full-on fuckload of dick move!
Effectively, Activision have removed options from their customers just for shits and giggles. Or because they can. Even as somebody who intended to play both Games, once I’d finished Infinite Warfare, I couldn’t then sell it, or even delete its 50+ GBs from my hard drive, because I needed it to play another game that I’d paid real cash-money for. MW Remastered wasn’t an add-on, and it wasn’t DLC for Infinite Warfare, it was a separate game, yet to play it, I needed to keep hold of another, completely unrelated Game. Even if I hadn’t have had the issues I’d had, that’s bullshit, but it’s especially fucking infuriating because of these issues – and because they arose purely because Activision are money-grubbing fuckers.
And since then, it’s all gotten even worse. As Shelby points out in his piece, Activision then proceeded to ask more money for DLCs and Map packs for Modern Warfare Remastered (so, that’s on top of the $60 + $20 for those keeping track at home), and, if that’s not bad enough, they’ve also added motherfucking microtransactions to the game too (So, like, $60 + $20, + an extra $15 for additional content + (as if that wasn’t milking shit enough) micro-motherfucking-transactions).
Most recently, Activision have decided that they will, in fact, release MWR as a stand alone game (for $40) despite explicitly stating that the only way you’d get to play it is with all the bollocks I’ve just been banging on about. “But wait…..”, I hear you say, “that’s a good thing isn’t it, James? Indeed, doesn’t that fix everything you’ve just been moaning about, you fickle fuck!?”. Well, kind of, I guess. I mean, if you didn’t buy the legacy edition of Infinite Warfare, but still want to play Modern Warfare Remastered then yeah, you’re laughing now. If, however, you bought Infinite Warfare, at least in part to play MWR, and you did so because Activision unequivocally stated that you’d only be able to play it by doing this (see my excellently edited screenshots of Activision’s FAQ page), you’d have every right to now feel somewhat aggrieved. You know, because Activision downright fucking lied to you to try and make a shitload of extra money on the back of your love of a particular game.
If, like me, you’re one of the people who did buy the legacy edition – but, unlike me, actually got to play Modern Warfare – and you’ve been hanging onto your copy of Infinite Warfare to continue playing MWR you’ve also now found out that you a) paid a chunk of money based on a lie, and b) that a big chunk of that money that could’ve been recouped by selling Infinite Warfare has been deliberately denied you, also based on a lie. Which, if we’re being honest, looks a lot like fucking fraud to me. Like, proper, dictionary definition of “[using] deception intended to result in financial or personal gain” kind of fraud. Now, Activision tend to be a wee bit litigious, but, like, fuck it…. Let’s call a spade a spade and say it again: that’s actually a textbook definition of fraud you lying, fraudulent fucking fucks.
Funnily enough, there’s the chance that these recent developments will actually benefit me. If MWR gets an update that removes the whole insert disc from a completely different game bullshit, I might finally get to play it. Even if it doesn’t, I can always pick up a cheap UK copy of Infinite Warfare, sell my US version, and probably just about break even. But still, that’s besides the fucking point, and even if I finally get to play Modern Warfare Remastered without spending an extra penny, this whole sorry episode will really make me consider whether it’s worth ever buying a new copy of an Activision game ever again. Indeed, I frequently see Activision’s dubious practices explained away with something like “Yeah, but as long as people buy the games, they’re going to keep doing it” and there’s definitely some truth in that – so, actually, I’ma stop buying them, at least new, and I sure as shit won’t be paying any additional money for DLCs or map packs.
I mean, bollocks to that, and bollocks to Activision.
TL; DR – Bollocks to that, and bollocks to Activision.