Activision Blizzard held their earnings call with investors this week, as many publishers have done as of late. One key takeaway from the meeting is the publisher's sharp decrease in microtransaction revenue. Overall, the company says their sales in that area are down by 31% from last year, but last year's numbers finished at $1.032 billion, meaning this year's totals still exceeded $700 million.
The likely culprit for the decrease is Bungie, who went indie earlier this year after mutually agreeing with Activision Blizzard to end their nine-year relationship together. Bungie's immensely popular loot shooter franchise, Destiny, has been a cash windfall for in-game purchases from its community members and those numbers no longer reflect in Activision Blizzard's totals.
On the other hand, the company did cite perennial juggernaut Call of Duty, specifically last year's story mode-free installment, Black Ops 4, as cause for the publisher's continued successes, with the game's MTX sales sharply outpacing those of 2017's Call of Duty: WWII over the same period.
In recent years, Activision Blizzard has employed a somewhat dishonest practice of adding microtransactions to games weeks after their launch, sometimes with little to no prior announcement of their arrival, as was the case with this summer's kart racer remake, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. CTR offered purchasable rewards at launch, but they could only be bought with in-game currency that could not be bought otherwise. Later in the summer, aligning with the game's Grand Prix live events, the game was updated to offer some content that could be purchased with real money.
This year's best-selling game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, promises no lootboxes, paid DLC, and even has a microtransaction that goes toward charity, the Call of Duty Endowment, which supports US and UK military veterans in finding jobs following their service. Modern Warfare instead employs a season pass-style rollout of content, which has swiftly become the industry's preferred method of post-launch earnings as various government bodies begin to investigate and crack down on randomized loot for sale in games. There will still be in-game cosmetic items you can purchase with real money.