It looks like Call of Duty may not do away with loot boxes in 2019. Infinity Ward and Activision haven't disclosed any plans for microtransactions in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but a discovery in the game's PlayStation 4 multiplayer beta suggests it's bringing back the series' Supply Drops in some form. Call of Duty's history with loot box mechanics parallels that of many games, and some fans would prefer to see the franchise follow the lead of games that are reigning in randomized microtransactions or eliminating them completely.
YouTuber NerosCinema spotted what appears to be a notification for a loot box drop on the beta's After Action Report screen after ranking up to level 6. In the beta, the purpose of ranking up is to unlock loadout creation and more choices for killstreaks and field upgrades, all of which are accessible through the Barracks menu. Since the "next unlock" window next to the loot box notification NerosCinema got is empty, it appears as though the unlock notices in the After Action Report are at least partially disabled in the beta.
The last two Call of Duty titles both featured microtransaction systems that generated significant fan backlash. In response to frustration over duplicate items and valuable weapons locked behind randomized Common Supply Drops, Sledgehammer Games overhauled Call of Duty: WW2's Supply Drop system a few months after launch. Last year, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 added microtransactions a few weeks after the game went live, irking players who found advancing through the game's Black Market battle pass for item unlocks to be arduously slow. With the update, Treyarch and Activision sped up the process some while also adding the option to simply purchase pass tiers outright.
Whether or not Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launches with loot box mechanics, adds them in a subsequent update, or avoids them outright, the decisions Infinity Ward and Activision make will be scrutinized by players and regulators alike. This week a U.K. ministry published a report that strongly recommended regulating loot boxes as a form of gambling, and though countries may not follow Belgium's lead in banning loot boxes outright. Several countries, including the United States, are watching how developers choose to self-regulate in response to government scrutiny.
Call of Duty is the kind of staple franchise where removal of a minimap makes waves on social media. If players find something they find distasteful about the way Modern Warfare approaches microtransactions, it likely wouldn't escape the attention of loot box critics pushing for regulation.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will be released for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 25.