The Day Call of Duty Fails - comradekoch Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Day Call of Duty Fails

Year after year a new Call of Duty game is released. Year after year, Activision makes millions off the title during it's holiday release. Activision is for all intents and purposes the "Call of Duty company." It is what they are known for, it's what they put all their resources into, and it's what makes them all of their money.

This years latest Call of Duty may be more appropriately named than you think

But one day it won't. When that fateful day comes, it's going to have huge repercussions for the game industry.

It's the only logical outcome, and one only has to look at history to see the writing on the wall.

Let's go back a few years to 2006. Guitar Hero II had just been released and shredding on plastic guitars while pressing colored buttons was "the next big thing." It was a blast - the ultimate party game to play with friends.

And Activision took notice. People couldn't get enough of head banging and shredding with their friends. So what did Activision do? Year after year, heck sometimes multiple times a year for the next three, Guitar Hero and its various expansions saturated the market, alternating developers so a new game could be released annually.

Six main games, seven minor games, and four expansion packs later, Guitar Hero is as good as dead.

It doesn't take a genius to see the similarities here. While I believe Call of Duty has more potential staying power than Guitar Hero ever did, its days are numbered. A game that is essentially the same core gameplay over and over again every year, with minor improvements and variations, cannot continue to succeed. It is simply an inevitability. But I do think it will happen sooner rather than later.

Anticipation for Call of Duty Ghosts doesn't seem to be quite as high as games past. Black Ops II, Activision boasted, topped pre-order records. At the same time, review numbers for Call of Duty titles have continued to drop ever so slightly since the multiplayer revolution that was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warefare, sitting atop a mighty 94 for Xbox 360 on Metacritic. Modern Warfare 2 for Xbox 360 owns a 92. Black Ops gets an 87. Modern Warfare 3 an 88. Black Ops 2 sits on a 83.

They are all enjoyable games to be sure. A score above 80 is in no way shape or form a "bad game," and I've personally played and enjoyed every single Call of Duty title since Call of Duty 2. But it does signify an interesting trend, one that almost follows in Guitar Hero's footsteps. Critics loved Guitar Hero II, accumulating a Metacritic score of 92. Slowly but surely after that though the numbers began to slip, ever so slightly, with each passing game. The final Guitar Hero game to be released, Warriors of Rock in 2011, has a Metacritic of 72. Review numbers aren't everything, but they do signify a slip in quality, and often as a result, popularity. 

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick

Obviously Call of Duty isn't quite to the point of Guitar Hero yet, but it could come soon. And when it does, what happens? Activision CEO Bobby Kotick has been on record saying Activision's business strategy is to essentially milk a few key franchises for all they are worth. We saw it happen with Guitar Hero, and the same strategy is being used for Call of Duty. He has, and will continue to, put almost all of his company's resources into one boat. If the boat sinks, will Activision have enough staying power to float?

It might, but the result isn't going to be pretty. Big budget games are getting more and more expensive to make. Games that sell millions of copies, like Tomb Raider, are considered failures and as not living up to expectations when compared to the amount of cash invested in a given title. What happens when the biggest AAA game of them all, Call of Duty, the safest bet of safest bets, becomes no more?

You can expect to see much fewer risks taken by publishers. Most likely, more efforts will be made to downsize climbing development costs. Games that follow similar production schedules, such as Assassin's Creed, may rethink their strategy of releasing a new title every year.

Bobby Kotick and industry leaders aren't blind. They know what happened with Guitar Hero. They know there can in fact be "too much of a good thing." They know the danger. But the simple truth is that as long as games like Call of Duty can continue to make money off a easily repeatable formula, they are going to drive it out into the market until consumers can't take anymore.

So when will it happen? When will gamers get tired of Call of Duty? Will it be a sudden decline, or more gradual? Could it be with this year's installment, Call of Duty: Ghosts? CoD will be for the first time in a long time getting some fierce new competition from a newcomer early next year in the form of Titanfall, developed by many of the very same people who made the Call of Duty franchise into a success in the first place. I expect Ghosts to sell well as usual, but I will make the prediction that it will sell less than Black Ops II, and that many FPS gamers may very well make the leap over to Respawn's new fast-paced mech shooter. Battlefield as a franchise has also steadily begun to rise to Call of Duty's challenge. Unlike other popular shooter Halo, Battlefield with its modern warfare setting and gameplay is directly encroaching on Call of Duty's turf. Battlefield also has the advantage of not being released annually. There will be more newcomers looking to usurp Call of Duty's FPS throne this coming year than ever before.

Will Titanfall usurp Call of Duty's throne? Only time will tell.

From there, it's anybody's guess. But one day Call of Duty will not be the money printing machine it has been for the last several years, and when that day comes, it will mean big changes are in store for the industry.

 

 

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