A fresh batch of accusations claim Call of Duty: Warzone lobby difficulty is being affected by Activision's microtransactions.

15:16, 22 Jan 2021

When it comes to the Call of Duty name, few titles can claim to have done what 2019's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare did for the franchise's legacy. Although Infinity Ward's first-person shooter polarised critics and didn't do much in terms of groundbreaking alterations in its main campaign, it was the battle royale spin-off known as Warzone that helped catapult CoD into a new era where it's almost untouchable. 

Launching in March 2020, Warzone saw up to 150 players (200 during limited-time modes) parachute into the fictional backdrop of Verdansk to shoot each other to pieces and hopefully become last team standing. Whether it was timing in the midst of a global pandemic, or the fact it combined our love of CoD with the booming battle royale genre, Warzone has had an astronomical climb since its release. As of December 2020, Warzone had over 85 million players worldwide and continues to be the talk of the virtual town.

While Warzone is about as big as they come, that hasn't stopped the title coming under fire for all the usual. Alongside glitches and hackers running rife, there's a continued debate surrounding the fairness of microtransactions and whether Warzone can be classed as a pay-to-win game. Off the back of continued controversy surrounding skill-based matchmaking, a new leak sheds a stark light on how the game's lobbies might work.


How could Call of Duty microtransactions affect lobbies?


Warzone pay to win? Or pay to not get pub stomped? [analysis in comments] from r/CODWarzone

The latest wave of allegations come via Reddit from u/rfmx49. Sharing some interesting insight into Warzone's data, they seemingly showed off how parting with real-world cash has given them an in-game advantage. Here, the player had a consistent K/D of just under 0.75 and was continuously placed in lobbies of Gold or Diamond before making the purchase.

It's important to remember that your lobby difficulty relies on a number of factors, including internet speed and region - not just your skill. However, it's interesting to note that after making a purchase, the difficulty of their lobby placement definitely looks like it dropped. In the 40 games before the purchase, they were only placed in two Silver lobbies. After the microtransaction, they were placed in Silver lobbies 19 times out of 35, and even found themself in Bronze three times.

In the post u/rfmx49 also referenced an Activision patent that describes microtransactions that could affect in-game matchmaking. Even if there's no evidence this is in play for Warzone, the whole scandal has sparked a huge debate online. Before gamers go spending all their hard-earned money on microtransactions in hope of climbing the Warzone rankings, this isn't conclusive evidence purchases will place you in an easier lobby. It's a dangerous accusation to make and one that Activision will surely have to address if it continues to grow. 



Are Call of Duty microtransactions affecting lobbies?

Only recently, CoD streamer JGOD warned the Black Ops Cold War weapon blueprints found in Warzone should be classed as pay-to-win. In a lengthy video, JGOD explained the Cold War blueprints are significantly better than their base versions. JGOD highlights the superior firepower of the Gallantry MAC-10, which is also locked behind the game's Battle Pass at Tier 95. In the video, he says the Cold War blueprint improved everything from damage to recoil, while the Gallantry MAC-10 didn't receive the recent headshot nerf the MAC-10 did. Activision has previously reassured disgruntled players that blueprints don't give an advantage to gameplay, however, do JGOD's facts speak for themselves?


In November, it was reported that Activision Blizzard had made a whopping $1.2 billion in microtransactions during its previous quarter. With this in mind, it's clear getting players to part with their cash is big business for the likes of CoD and Overwatch. Ultimately, data about skewed lobbies is unlikely to get Activision to change the way microtransactions work. Considering they account for over half of Activision Blizzard's quarterly revenue, it's a system that is raking in some serious dollar. 

Just like most modern games, Warzone's use of microtransactions are only meant to alter weapons and Operators cosmetically, however, the idea that you can be placed into an easier lobby simply by making a purchase is a huge revelation. We'll have to keep our crosshairs on how this one develops.


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