Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's battle royale mode Blackout is free to play throughout April

Is there a free-to-play pivot in the works? It certainly looks that way from the outside.

Credit: Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII - Blackout

Poor Blackout. For a brief period last year I thought Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s battle royale mode was going to take off. Blackout looked like Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds but played like Call of Duty—a perfect combination, I thought, for those who wanted a more grounded battle royale experience without all of PUBG’s jank.

And then Apex Legends happened. Respawn’s battle royale folded in many of the same improvements as Blackout—more mobility, snappier shootings, better inventory management. Oh, and it was free. Turns out, it’s a lot easier to build and retain an audience when your game’s not behind a paywall, and while Apex Legends undoubtedly stole players from Fortnite and PUBG, it was Blackout’s distant third-place position that really seemed to be cannibalized overnight.

Cue this week’s news: Blackout is free for the entire month of April.

Not free to keep, mind you. Activision’s calling it a “Free Access” window. Still, that’s an incredibly generous “demo.” These trial periods usually last a weekend or maybe a week, certainly not an entire month.

I’d hazard this tells us two things. First, it’s confirmation that yes, Apex significantly hurt Blackout’s player base. You run this sort of promotion to try and shore up your server population and build hype again, especially in battle royale games where you need around 100 players per match.

Two, I’d guess that Activision is toying with the idea of Blackout going free-to-play. First Blackout was confined to the traditional $60 version of Black Ops 4. Then Activision made a special $30 edition with just arena multiplayer and Blackout. Free-to-play next? It doesn’t seem like an outrageous scenario.

Maybe April 30 comes and goes and Blackout’s still free. Maybe the “Access Window” ends on April 30, but there’s a pivot to free-to-play this summer. Or maybe it’s the next version of Blackout that gets the free-to-play treatment, divorced from Infinity Ward’s more traditional Call of Duty this fall.

In any case, it’s worth checking out if you’ve got the time. I raved about Blackout last year. It’s faster than PUBG but more realistic and grounded than Fortnite, a sweet spot for me. There’s also a new map this week, which I’m interested in checking out. It’s set on Alcatraz, San Francisco’s famed prison island, which sits just a few miles away from me in the Bay. Close quarters battle royale is a unique premise, and the map looks like a faithful 1-to-1 reproduction with some very unique sightlines.

And hey, it’s free. Might as well pop in. You can grab Blackout through Blizzard’s client, and Activision says all progress will carry over if you decide to keep playing past April 30.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Hayden Dingman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Cate Bacon

Aruba Instant On AP11D

The strength of the Aruba Instant On AP11D is that the design and feature set support the modern, flexible, and mobile way of working.

Dr Prabigya Shiwakoti

Aruba Instant On AP11D

Aruba backs the AP11D up with a two-year warranty and 24/7 phone support.

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?