Gaming
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Infinity Ward Sells Out

Infinity Ward’s community manager, Robert Bowling (aka FourZeroTwo) dropped a bomb on PC gamers this weekend. In what was set to be an otherwise low key appearance on the bashandslash.com podcast, Bowling divulged a monumental shift in the Call of Duty franchise. He revealed Infinity Ward’s intentions to take total control of the PC community with their new matchmaking service, IWNet. The message was clear: there won’t be dedicated servers in Modern Warfare 2.

The internet exploded in response to Bowling’s statements, but for many casual observers, IWNet may appear to enhance their online experience. The typical server browser will disappear in favor of an Xbox-like matching service, which will find acceptable games based on a player’s skill level. Bowling even promised that we would still have the ability to create private matches. Despite his attempts to sell IWNet, the response has been generally negative. This new service registered as a deathblow to many PC gamers (myself included).

As a result, Infinity Ward’s official forums were set on fire Saturday evening. Irate gamers picked up their pitchforks, and a mob mentality flowed freely without moderation. This knee-jerk reaction may have done damage to our cause, but many gamers felt betrayed by this news, and for good reason. This information could have been disclosed at an earlier date, and more time would have given the protest a chance at becoming a dialog. Infinity Ward waited until the 11th hour and pulled the rug out from under our collective feet. Some reacted to this news furiously, and they will continue to do so until their demands are met with some sort of public response.

Gamers don’t like being lied to. Less than a month ago, shacknews asked Robert Bowling if there were any changes to Modern Warfare 2’s functionality on the PC. Bowling responded simply and definitively: “[the] PC will be the same as it always was.” It’s unknown if this fib was intentional, or if Bowling was simply misinformed, but this was clearly contradicted by his recent revelations. It’s Bowling’s job to connect Infinity Ward with their fans, and so far as many people are concerned, he mislead PC gamers in that interview. It may have been more of a mistake than a lie, but it only serves diminish Bowling’s credibility.

But let’s put this into perspective—what do we stand to lose in this transition?

One of the advantages commonly associated PC gaming is modded content. This is a fairly broad domain. A mod can be just about anything; it can be a new weapon skin, a custom level, or an entirely new game. Games like Counter Strike, Team Fortress, and Battlefield 2 all began life as amateur projects, but less ambitious endeavors have still had a tremendous impact on the community. In many ways, the community has reshaped Call of Duty to fit our needs. The unregulated nature of the platform has allowed gamers to make PC gaming whatever we see fit—this idea seems antiquated in the face of certain regulation.

Enter: eSports.

For years, competitive gaming has been a cornerstone of the PC experience. There’s a league or ladder for every skill level. Call of Duty 4, like its predecessors, is immensely popular in these circles. It’s important to note how large of an impact IWNet will have on these “eSports.” Gaming clans require private servers to fulfill a variety of needs. Private rooms within Infinity Ward’s matching service may give teams a place to play, but it’s uncertain if they will meet their requirements. If IWNet uses peer-to-peer technology, we can expect less reliable hosts and unwelcome ping advantages. Without mods, re-balancing a game designed around public play will be nearly impossible. Mods and private servers are both critical here; without them, Call of Duty will be all but dead to serious competition.

The sects most directly impacted by this new system may seem minute in comparison to the scope of the total audience, but they’re by no means insignificant. PC gamers weren’t born yesterday, and we didn’t start gaming yesterday either. Our expectations have been formed by decades of loyal patronage and support. It’s not unreasonable that we might expect the PC to remain the enthusiast’s platform. We expect more direct control over our software. These high expectations have only been enforced by the relationship we’ve had with game developers for (many) years.

There are thousands, if not millions of gamers who may not feel the impact directly, but they will be categorically affected by IWNet. Nevermind the contributions that gamers have made to the industry, especially in this genre, consider the community.

Call of Duty has been the darling of PC gamers since it stole Medal of Honor’s thunder several years ago. Its popularity can be witnessed in every corner of the PC market. It’s hard to say what Activision and Infinity Ward’s real motivation is here, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that these systems are being put in place to support premium add-ons. Whatever their motivation is, we expect better treatment.

We still love Valve, because despite our recent disputes, they have shown us respect; Infinity Ward, on the other hand, lied. All of our most reasonable complaints and concerns have already been considered. Somewhere in a board room, people from Infinity Ward and Activision must have had this conversation. They weren’t born yesterday either, and they’ve been with us long enough to know how devastating this would be to their original audience. Personally, I thought Infinity Ward was better than that, but it appears that I was wrong.

Don’t listen to the people trying to quiet your voices. They might not listen, but sign a petition, post on a forum, or rant about it on your damn blog. Even if our dissent goes unrewarded, Infinity Ward and Activision need to hear us clearly. Make sure that the powers that be know that you won’t pay more for less. My message is clear: until this situation is properly resolved, do not buy this game.

…and just for fun, watch this video.

We still love Valve, because despite our recent disputes, they have shown us respect—Activision, on the other hand, lied.

8 comments
Spite
Spite

I will not give them the satisfaction of my hard earned money, Torrents FTW!

Spite
Spite

My pre Order is cancelled, was looking forward to this game, but they really need to pull finger and stop being money whores.

codisdead
codisdead

@the czar: cant agree more, im cancelling my pre-order asap!

The Czar
The Czar

I won't be buying the game unless they fix this.

BobbyKotickSucks
BobbyKotickSucks

This affects the business of server hosting companies as well. This is a change that benefits no one except Activision.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Infinityward should be on the do not buy list from now on.