Why Call of Duty: Warzone should copy CSGO to fix its cheating problem
Warzone, Call of Duty’s immensely popular battle royale, has been battling with its excessive cheating problem pretty much since launch. As hackers run rampant, the developers are struggling to keep up – but the solution is out there.
Although cheaters exist in almost every online game, and will continue to be, there is one reason why Warzone faces a bigger challenge than others: Price of entry.
Being free-to-play is part of Warzone’s success – there’s no question that if it had cost a premium, the player base would be a lot smaller. Fortnite and Apex Legends being free-to-play almost forced Activision’s hand, if they wanted to compete in the saturated BR market.
The downside is obvious though. Banning a cheater’s account will do little to deter them, as they can simply start a new account with another free version of the game. But, CS:GO, and other games, already have a solution for this.
No, we’re not talking about Amazon Prime but rather CS:GO’s ‘Prime’ version. CS:GO, released in 2012 and went free-to-play in 2018.
Immediately, the first concern was that cheaters would overwhelm the servers, as there was no longer a pay-barrier to entry. But Valve had other ideas. They simply introduced what’s called ‘Prime matchmaking.’ Players who already owned the paid version were automatically upgraded, and new players could opt to pay $14.99/£11.49 for “Prime Status.”
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There are a number of benefits for Prime Status members, including “Prime-exclusive souvenir items, item drops, and weapon cases.” But, the real benefit is Prime matchmaking. This option also requires a phone number to be linked to your account, and you can’t simply start a new account without linking a phone number to it as well.
This isn’t to say that the system is foolproof. Cheaters can still find their way into ‘Prime’ lobbies. But, what matters is that their numbers are significantly reduced.
Warzone could quite easily implement a similar feature – and we bet plenty of players would be willing to pay. Of course, anyone who has purchased the full version of Modern Warfare or Black Ops Cold War would automatically get ‘Prime Status.’ Free-to-play players could pay a nominal, one-off fee, enabling safer matchmaking and perhaps granting some rewards, a few levels on the battle pass for example, or exclusive skins.
Another way CS:GO attempts to manage the volume of hackers is through trust ratings. It must be said that this trust system is not without its criticisms either. But, generally, it works well to weed out either toxic players or potential cheaters.
A trust factor could be implemented into Warzone, but it would need to be transparent. Currently, some players believe they’ve been “shadow-banned” from regular matchmaking in Warzone because they’ve been reported too many times. This uncertainty isn’t good, and instead, players should be able to see their trust rating, and be able to work towards improving it.
Another aspect is that players in CS:GO cannot immediately jump into a ranked competitive match without playing some casual matches first, and a similar system is used in Overwatch. This also gives a ‘time buffer’ – meaning would-be cheaters will need to waste time in these games before they can ruin the proper experience for others.
Warzone could easily implement a buffer for new accounts, stipulating that they have to play five practice matches first, for example. This certainly wouldn’t put off the most determined of cheaters, but it’s another hurdle at least.
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It’s clear that something needs to be done about hackers in Warzone. Some of the most popular content creators, who were once dedicated to the game, like Vikkstar, have ditched it.
The cheaters have also impacted the upper levels of competitive Warzone, with the very best players dropping out of tournaments as they can’t trust their opponents to be playing fair.
A paid membership like Prime would likely get some backlash for Activision, as players would criticize the developers for trying make money out of the problem instead of fixing it. But, ultimately, it would still be better than the current situation, where the ease of access for cheaters to get right back on with a new account is almost certainly contributing to the problem overall.