Staring with Warzone’s Season 3.5 launch on June 1, players can adopt the pro gamer’s operator skin as a playable character in the battle royale game. It’s a sign of how influential creators have become in games with tens of millions of players.
“This the first time Activision is taking that step which is definitely cool,” Nickmercs said in an interview with GamesBeat.
Sadly for Warzone game developer Activision, Nickmercs (Nick Kolcheff) has been one of the players openly criticizing Warzone’s latest updates and lately he’s been pouring 12-hour days into streaming his play on the rival Apex Legends game.
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Nickmercs has played with FaZeClan for years. And FaZeClan signed up his Apex team in March. Of course, Nickmercs said he’ll at least be playing Warzone 2 today on his Twitch channel in recognition of the announcement.
Asked if he would take a break from Apex to play more Warzone, he said, “It’s going to be hard to not want to boot up the game that has your skin on it, you know. But at the end of the day, we got some goals competitively with Apex. I don’t think that that’s going to take me away from that permanently. But definitely looking to spend some time with my old friends on Call of Duty and create some cool content.”
It’s the first time the Call of Duty franchise has added a pro gamer as a playable operator in Warzone. Previous guest “operators” that have flanked the battlefield include fictional characters John Rambo (“Rambo”), Leatherface (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), and most recently, soccer sensation Neymar Jr and NBA superstar, Kevin Durant.
Nickmercs is one of gaming’s most recognizable streaming personalities. He entertains a passionate audience of over 15 million followers who define what it means to be a modern digital community and so he had no qualms about lobbing some motivational grenades at Activision’s Warzone 2 developers.
He does regular giveaways (apparel, Xmas), blockbuster live events featuring audiences of more than 10,000 fans (MFAM BBQ, MFAM Central), and an immersive competitive series (MFAM Gauntlet) that puts followers in a pro gamer’s chair.
Nickmercs built a reputation for loud and funny streams where he showed amazing skill at the game. He has played Warzone on stream for over 2,500 hours and has recorded 108,000 hours of viewership for the title. It peaked at 371,000 concurrent viewers during a 2022 new map reveal stream — the most ever for the franchise. He also won the first-ever Warzone 2 match during Activision’s reveal.
Apex over Warzone
And so it was a loss when he moved over to Apex Legends.
He said that the cheating problem in Warzone was originally what pushed him away from the game.
“The cheating was getting a little bit out of hand,” he said.
Activision Blizzard addressed a lot of that last fall with the introduction of its Ricochet anti-cheat technology. But Nickmercs also said that he wished that Activision would have a better focus on the competitive side, with more pro tournaments that would appeal to him more.
“I was looking to get back in there. And when I started playing Apex and I heard about the competitive format, the Pro League and all that, I thought it was time to give in a whirl. Then we actually qualified for Pro League and that’s a big deal. We’re still having fun trying to climb that to the top.
“That’s what brought me over [to Apex] originally,” he said. “Apex has the best competitive side.”
As for Warzone 2, he said, “I don’t think it was horrible. I just don’t think it’s as good as the first one. But I think no matter what happened, it was kind of set up to fail with the fact that it was coming after those COVID years. I mean, and everybody was inside playing a lot, you know. When you have that kind of power, of course the game’s going to blow up.”
That made it hard to follow up Warzone with a new version.
Being an operator
One of Nickmercs’ favorite moments was when his team won a $100,000 tournament.
“I’m not the best in these games by any means but I’m definitely up there,” he said. “If you combine that with the way I carry myself, all of those things combined, that’s what I would give the credit to” in terms of becoming popular.
As far as his favorite parts of the games, he said that his focus is on being competitive, with lots of tournament features, he said.
It took about four months to pull together the project to use Nickmercs as an operator. But Warzone 2 had a bit of a choppy launch, with the community dividing over whether the new version of the game was better than the first. On that, Nickmercs said it was inevitable that the audience for Warzone would decline over time, as it was one of the titles that got a huge pop as it launched in the pandemic, just as people were unable to gather in real life and so they started playing a lot more video games.
For Warzone 2, putting creators in the game is a step in the right direction, he said.
“It just shows that developers care and they care enough to include you and create these cool fun things that you and your community can be involved in,” he said.
It also shows the developers are hungry and want to get back on top through things like the new skins, he said.
When he first heard about the new skin being confirmed, Nickmercs said he was excited.
“I have a couple of great friends that already have skins in triple-A games. And after seeing all the things that they went through and how happy they were, I couldn’t help it. You don’t want to be jealous, but you definitely have a little bit of envy,” he said.
When he heard for sure it was going to happen, Nickmercs said, “Well, shit, that sounds fucking lit. And they told me that they were going to pay me to put me in the game. And I’m like, well shit, better. So it was a lot of excitement.”
“Things have been kind of down in the Call of Duty scene. So that might be part of the reason that we’re getting the skin. But I just hope people can see that. That’s not our fault. That’s not Tim and me. It’s a good step in the right direction,” he said.
Nickmercs said he wants Call of Duty’s teams to keep trying to be the best and be more competitive. Of course, now that they’ve opened the door with the Nickmercs skin, I think it’s only fair they make a skin for me in honor of how bad I am at Warzone.
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