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Call of Duty players flock to buy “all-black” DLC skin, hide in dark corners


Enlarge / You’ll never see me coming…

Industry watchers who pay attention to Steam’s Top Sellers charts may have noticed a surprising entry climbing near the top in recent days: a cosmetic Call of Duty skin pack themed after the Los Angeles Thieves Call of Duty League (CDL) team. Those surprisingly strong sales probably have little to do with team fandom, though, and more to do with how the nearly all-black kit can make players harder to spot in Modern Warfare II or Warzone 2.0 matches.

The LA Thieves pack, which went on sale earlier this week, is one of 12 different themed skin packs designed around the 12 teams in the competitive CDL. But while every other available CDL skin pack features bright colors and/or a striped shoulder harness for easy visibility, the LA Thieves’ offering is almost completely black, save for a small red “LA” logo on the chest, left arm, and back.

Players have quickly noticed how this outfit could make them harder to see in the darker parts of some Call of Duty maps. “Make sure you guys head to the store and pick up the only skin that gives you a competitive advantage,” Thieves player Sam Larew cheekily tweeted on Tuesday.

Wednesday morning, fan site CharlieIntel noticed the pack was the 11th bestselling item on all of Steam, as measured by total revenue. As of this writing, the $10 DLC still sits at the 18th position on Steam’s US revenue charts, well ahead of popular games like Marvel Snap and Final Fantasy XIV.

Enlarge / One of these things is not like the others…

The next highest-selling CDL skin, the OpTic Texas pack, currently sits at 125th on an expanded list of Steam top sellers, suggesting it’s not just demand for generic CDL skins driving those LA Thieves sales. “I can assure you these Team Packs aren’t usually very popular,” says one writer at esports site EarlyGame. “But the LA Thieves’ kit is almost completely black, and it’s becoming popular for all the wrong reasons… This is going to end well…”

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History repeating?

This isn’t the first time the Call of Duty community has dealt with “purely cosmetic” DLC that provided players with a potential competitive advantage. In early 2021, Warzone players far and wide complained about the nearly all-black “Roze” skin, which was dominating tournaments and which at least one popular streamer said was “ruining” the game.

After promising a fix in April, developer Raven Software finally made the Roze skin a bit brighter in a June 2021 game update. The skin had its brightness increased again, this time by 70 percent, in a May 2022 update that CharlieIntel said was “meant to ensure that her outfit remains perfectly visible during intense gunfights.”

After just a few days of availability, the LA Thieves skin is already drawing plenty of Roze comparisons and complaints of “Roze 2.0”. One popular streamer even complained on Twitter that the new skin is “somehow darker than Roze was in [Warzone].” The LA Thieves “knew what they were doing with this one,” they added in a follow-up tweet.

Some players suggested that the improved lighting and lighter-colored desert maps in Warzone 2.0 mean an all-black skin will offer less of an advantage this time around. But that’s far from a universal sentiment. “The game is fast paced, anything that doesn’t move is very difficult to identify as a threat except if it’s very obvious,” as one Redditor pointed out. “If you’re not wearing bright colors, it works.”

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As eventually happened with Roze, Raven Software and Activision could once again nerf this new all-black skin to lessen its perceived visibility advantage in the game. But it seems unlikely that any such change will lead to refunds for all those players who are currently making the skin a surprise bestseller. As always, may the buyer beware.

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