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Veteran Member - Level 13
I can't help but think about where the Call of Duty franchise could go from here. Yeah, BlackOps II isn't even out yet, but it's fun to consider the possibilities. Call of Duty one through three brought World War II to the gaming masses, and once that genre was perceived dead, Infinity Ward boldly pushed the game's setting into the present. Ever since, the franchise is firmly established as the Sovereign of Shooters.
However, Activision can't let its main franchise become stale. Too much money is at stake producing each individual title, and the series is the publisher's main source of income. Thinking ahead, after the exploration of modern warfare gets tiresome, which for many it already has, then what?
Instead of Infinity Ward, Treyarch has made the move, pushing the setting of the franchise another time. Black Ops' endeavors through the Cold War were a blast (literally and figuratively), but the game was still a bit too similar to its Modern Warfare brethren to become the breath of fresh air it was supposed to be. So yet again Treyarch stepped up to the plate and moved the setting into the future.
Infinity Ward now has an interesting choice: should the series play it safe and stick with the Modern Warfare formula they've raked in millions on, or should they follow Treyarch into unknown territory? More likely than not, the former option is what Activision will choose. Modern Warfare is still kicking, and as long as players spend their money, Activision will keep on giving those games. Still...
There's a Time and a Place for Everything
...another change in setting is inevitable for Call of Duty; this tactic is what will keep the shooter franchise afloat when it eventually runs into trouble. The possibilities are pretty much endless where Activision could take the franchise once Modern Warfare has exhausted itself. Call of Duty has always enjoyed giving the player a wide variety of roles, situations, environments, and weapons to use and enjoy. We've used a Thomson on the beaches of Normandy, Barrett .50cal in Chernobyl, and an M16 in New York City. We've gone from 1945, to 1976 and 2016.
Whether or not Call of Duty becomes stale comes down to where the player is put, and in what time. These two factors decide the weapons the gamer has at their disposal, the characters they interact with, and the objectives they complete. Thus if the Call of Duty franchise can constantly keep the next locale and era fresh, CoD will remain king for quite some time.
Even though we've been to Cuba, Russia, and the US, plenty of intriguing areas remain open for the exploration of the franchise. Why not enlist for a mission in Hong Kong, Las Vegas, and Antarctica; Japan, Iceland, and Washington State? I understand that the Call of Duty franchise's plotlines are what work with Time and Place, so I know that making the player fight terrorists in Panama is less realistic than fighting them in Afghanistan. But Call of Duty has never been known for its realism, so these zany and unlikely situations are still on the table if the plot can make them relevant.
Humanity's history is full to the brim with wars and conflict. Thus World War II, the Cold War, a Russian invasion, and a full weapons systems takeover comprise only the tip of a mammoth-sized iceberg (conflictberg?).
Activision could make games that go as far back as the Roman Empire's height in 2nd century BC, to as far into the future as the publisher is willing to risk. Are we to see a Call of Duty down the line involve aliens vs humans? Highly unlikely, considering the franchise's reliance on light simulation since its inception. Feudal Japan would be intriguing for Call of Duty. Duty is, after all, all a samurai was trained and told to live for. Introducing sword mechanics would be tricky, but if Activision put enough financial backing behind either IW or Treyarch, I'm sure the studios could work something out. If they'd be successful, they would redefine the shooter franchise yet again.
Swords, aliens or none of the above, changing the era the next title takes place within is a key component to keeping the franchise fresh.
Putting It All Together
If we combine the myriads of different possibilities, Call of Duty games could become nigh unrecognizable half a decade from now. A game could take the player through feudal Japan, or the invasion of the Romans into surrounding territories. The player could fight on the front lines of an even more futuristic set of wars than the one Black Ops II will provide.
The trick with changing the place and time of each game does present the problem of retaining the franchise's core identity. As long as these romps through Japan and futuristic cities remain distinctly Call of Duty, Activision need not worry much about changing other things around. That statement is coming from a single gamer. I imagine the heads of Activision would balk at taking such risks, since they have much more to consider.
Expanding the Cycle
While the high-octane scenarios present in Call of Duty gave the franchise the fame it now enjoys, the franchise has garnered some infamy for its adherence to a game-every-year development cycle. So far, Activision has been able to take the series to even higher heights using this strategy. Why not expand it further? While cycling through developers as they're currently doing, the times and places of the games could be cycled as well.
For example, for 6 years, have Infinity Ward produce a Modern Warfare game every 2 years, and Treyarch produce a Black Ops title every 2 years as well (that means three titles for each studio). Once one developer reaches the end of those 6 years, they switch to another setting, which they will produce for over the course of another 6 years. Eventually, they could come full-circle, and begin another 6-year bout with WWII games. 12 to 18 years enough of a break from a WWII Call of Duty game right? The whole thing would look something like this:
Regardless of how you perceive Call of Duty, Activision's business model, or the community the games have created, you cannot deny the monetary success of the franchise as a whole. In order for the series to survive, it has to get creative with the places and times in which it places us gamers. Whether or not that means departing from the use of the gun, or even going so far as departing Earth, a la a science fiction sequel, is yet to be seen. My stance on the Call of Duty games is tedious at best, but I honestly do hope the franchise continues to do well.
Hmm... Well thought out.
Interesting cycle you have there. It's defiantly something to think about. Nice blog.
@Cru, great blog. It has some interesting points to think about and vet more. The developers should read this blog; take heed. Anyone else, agree or disagree? Also, I too, feel as though they could look into other wars ie. Korean, Persian Gulf, WW2(Pacific arena),etc.
Do you remember how mind blowing the first CoD game was? Storming the beaches of Normandy hadn't been so shocking since watching Saving Private Ryan and it is a gaming experience I'll never forget. My mind was equally blown playing the first MW, the Chernobyl mission you mentioned was stunning. MW2 was interesting but offered no "wow, this is different" experience and I have yet to purchase (but have played) a new CoD game since. What you have discussed here would renew my interest in the franchise and I would happily step back into the wallet milking herd that Activision shepards.