Are mobile games financially abusing your commitment? Call of Duty: Mobile – A case study

You may have read or heard about Call of Duty: Mobile (CoDM) being rigged recently, and you wouldn’t be completely wrong to believe what you read or heard. Today, we dive into why people are claiming that it is rigged and how mobile games publishers are financially abusing your commitment.

The team behind CoDM decided to introduce Lucky Draw, a concept that those playing PUBG may be familiar with already. In short, a Lucky Draw is an in-game event where prizes (varying in rarity) are mixed together for a limited time; and where users can trade in an in-game currency (obtained using real money) for a chance a getting one of the prizes. Generally, these prizes each have a given chance of being pulled ranging from 0% to 100%.

These are offered compared to loot boxes, as both do compare in the fact that they tend to force people to spend more and more in order for them to obtain the items they actually want through blind purchases. Lucky Draw, however, tend to increase in price for every draw players pull. Let’s dive into the case of CoDM.


Lucky Draws – Call of Duty: Mobile

Recently, the publishers of CoDM introduced a Halloween themed Lucky Draw, where players could potentially get two extremely rare items, cameo for a weapon (AK-47) and a themed character (Outrider Skeleton). Both are labelled as purple/Epic tier items, i.e. extremely rare. However, when releasing these boxes, the published opted for transparency, and indicated that purple/Epic items in this Lucky Draw had a 42% chance of dropping. If only players knew the actual scam before they ended up spending around $250 USD…

As it turns out, 42% was NOT the odds of purple/Epic items dropping, but the odds of all Purple/Epic items dropping combined. Below are the actual percentages (which add up to precisely 42%) for each individual Purple/Epic items. These more specific percentages were only provided by Activision two days after the scam was brought to light by players.

  • Purple Weapon Card: 25.67%
  • Season Weapon Crate: 15.00%
  • Outrider Skeleton: 1.25%
  • AK-47 Pumpkin Head: 0.08%

The scam doesn’t end there. It is one thing for people to have low odds of obtaining the rarest items in the Lucky Draw, but to consistently reward them as the two rarest items as the very last two items in the draw fall into what players fairly called it: a scam.

Three Youtubers, dedicated to the cause of making a successful living out of their creative content, decided to go all in, and spend as much as was needed in order to get these exclusive items: HawksNest, Starsnipe, and NoahFromYoutube. All three systematically obtained the Outrider Skeleton and the AK-47 Pumpkin Head as the last two items in their draw, in that order.

As we indicated earlier, in Lucky Draws, prices for each draw increase as you progress through the prizes. You would first be seduced by these amazing odds (originally only 42% for ALL Purple/Epic items) at a rather low price, but this price would unfairly increase through what is called the Escalation of Commitment (explained by Vsauce2).

In total, users require a total of 25,580 CoD Points, which have a value of $250 USD. Prices for each draw:

  • 40 CP
  • 80 CP
  • 200 CP
  • 400 CP
  • 800 CP
  • 960 CP
  • 1600 CP
  • 3000 CP
  • 6500 CP ($150 USD spent up to this point)
  • 10000 CP ($100 USD ALONE)

It would be easy to advise someone not to spend the money on the last draw, but as the Escalation of Commitment explains it, users had already invested a sum of $150 USD up to this point. Stopping there would mean that they spent that amount for no purpose, as the reason they were spending the money to begin with was to get the items they would only actually get from the last two draws.


Parting Words and Pokemon GO’s case

We often hear people complain about loot boxes, but these are only the surface of the issue. The events stated above about CoDM is one among many and show how a company can financially abuse its players by misinforming them (wrongly stating the odds in this case). So many games abuse this format. As a matter of fact, PUBG Lite players have recently started to riot in light of these events in CoDM (more details here).

Mechanics abusing the Escalation of Commitment is something more and more frequent in mobile gaming. For instance, more recently, Niantic announced that Pokemon GO players would have the opportunity of obtaining a Legendary Pokemon earlier than others if they were to purchase a special event ticket, hinting that the company might adopt this format more frequently in future events. Most players have so far reported purchasing the ticket to this event because of the FoMO (Fear of Missing Out), extremely connected to the Escalation of Commitment.

Feedback for this particular event has been really poor so far, despite people purchasing the pass to the event with extreme optimism. Upon realizing that the event was really nothing more than an early access to a Pokemon, players were quickly disappointed and some even regretted their purchase.

Such behaviours raise a lot more concerns regarding the Free to Play format in the mobile gaming realm; and the communities, just like in the case of CoDM, are the ones who can make game publishers, so we applaud this particular community for standing up for themselves. This is a small win, but a great one.

For those reasons, we applaud the newly adopted format of Apple Arcade, where a monthly price is set giving you access to a large variety of games free of loot boxes, microtransactions, etc.

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