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Veteran Member - Level 12
Recently in my travels across Reddit (great site for wasting time), someone posted a link to a
recent IGN article about Call of Duty. The article was moderately lengthy
but what it basically said was that the essential core of Call of Duty has not
changed at all since 2007's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. IGN called on
Activision to throw in some new changes and make their signature shooter series
fresh again. It's been five years since the release of the first Modern
Warfare, and IGN wants the series to reboot and move on.
Here's the problem: that will never happen. To change Call
of Duty is exactly what Activision will not
Before the fanboys bring out the torches and pitchforks,
calm down a little. This isn't another cliché blog about how great Battlefield
3 is. Truthfully, I think Battlefield is too unfriendly to new players. I have
no desire to play it. On the other hand, my younger brother has bought each and
every Call of Duty game. During visits home I play against him quite a lot. We
used to play a lot of co-op before I left for college, and playing 1v1
deathmatch is a good way to catch up on old times. So when I skewer Call of
Duty's flaws, understand that it's because I've played them all.
Plus all the games that aren't listed here.
Back to the topic at hand. Call of Duty will never change
because change goes completely against their design philosophy. Every part of those
games is carefully built to be as newbie-friendly as possible. Call of Duty 4
struck gold. Each of its successors is a refinement of the original Modern
Warfare 1 design. The concept that made Call of Duty 4 so successful is to
remove skill as much as possible.
That sounds like a slam but it's really not. Think about it.
In most popular shooters before Call of Duty (read: Halo and Battlefield), the
idea was that players who had more skill almost always beat those who were less
talented. Games like Halo reward hardcore players but punish newbies. Whether
that's a good thing depends on your point of view.
Clearly Activision thought it was a terrible idea. Call of
Duty is crafted around the tenant that all players should have a decent chance
of killing each other. Sure, that slightly blunts skill, but it also makes it
easier for new players to get started. Even if you're terrible at Call of Duty,
you can probably get a couple kills with the rifle-mounted grenade launcher
That was a brilliant idea. Suddenly the potential audience
for Call of Duty expanded exponentially. Now instead of just hardcore shooter
fans, everyone could play and do somewhat well. Over the course of four sequels
Activision has taken the idea of mass appeal over skill and really ran with it.
The core design philosophy of each game
is to appeal to the lowest possible common denominator. Even if that means
earning the ire of game critics and hardcore gamers, investing in maximum
popular appeal is a great way to boost sales. The simple fact is there are more
casual players than hardcore gamers.
Call of Duty is built to attract the greatest possible
number of people. That is the real reason why we're playing essentially the
same game four sequels later. If Activision changed the game a lot between each
sequel, it would limit the audience. By keeping each Call of Duty sequel
functionally identical, the gameplay remains familiar to casual players. My
younger brother mentioned once that he buys Call of Duty every year because "I
know it'll be a year's worth of entertainment." That's the power of familiarity
driving sales. People buy what they know.
And just to be clear, it is the same game every year.
Activision approaches the design of a Call of Duty sequel much like EA
approaches Madden. They tweak the gameplay slightly every year, but not by
much. Remember how I mentioned that I usually play the new Call of Duty when I
visit my younger brother? I score pretty well against him and win most of our
matches, even if I've never played that particular Call of Duty before (and he
has). Skills and practice from one sequel apply to all the sequels because the
gameplay is essentially the same.
The moral of the story is IGN and Battlefield fans and game
critics and snarky commenters can complain as much as they'd like, but Call of Duty will never change. Change
limits mass appeal. Call of Duty is built specifically to attract as many
people as possible. People who don't follow the industry or even own a game
console know about Call of Duty. Say what you want about Activision's
repetitive design philosophy, it sure as hell works. Call of Duty is probably
the most-recognizable brand in gaming. Again, recognition means sales.
That's why Activision won't ever change Call of Duty more
than a few tweaks. It's just not in their best interests.
What do you think? Will Call of Duty ever change? Should it?
Battlefield fans, here's your chance to go into Total Condescension mode.