Towards the end of 2012, analysts began discussing the fact that Call of Duty sales figures appeared to be trending downward from previous years. This is the first time in the last 4 or 5 years that the words 'trending downward' have come anywhere near this dominant franchise and it gave the industry something to think about.
Yes, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 still made billions of dollars for Activision last year and we're well aware that this year's iteration will do the same. But the fact remains that something is going on. Are people growing tired of the Call of Duty brand? Has the gravy train that is Call of Duty finally come in to station? All good things have to end sometime and many are beginning to wonder if that day is somewhere in sight for Call of Duty.
Doubtless folks like EA and Ubisoft have their eyes on Call of Duty's successes and failures as it is pretty much a roadmap for what they will be doing in coming years.
I've been thinking about the potential downfall of Call of Duty over the past few months and I think that there are three pillars that the franchise needs to build upon in the coming years if they are to stay as powerful as they have been in the past.
Originally, this was going to be a single editorial but the words got away with me so I'm going to expand it to a three-part story. In this edition, we'll focus on the first of three pillars that I believe Call of Duty must focus on in the next couple years.
Keep reading for Part 1 of our editorial '3 Things Call of Duty Has to Do to Stay on Top'!
5 years worth of M1911 design and development
I'll be up front about two things, before we get any further; first, I am a huge Call of Duty fan. I have been a part of the franchise since the very beginning and continue to enjoy it today. That said, I am also well and truly sick of the 'Call of Duty formula'. I harbor something of a love-hate relationship with this franchise that isn't like any other series that I play.
Think on this for a moment: Call of Duty has essentially remained the same since Call of Duty 4. That game released in 2007 so we're talking about very little change to the fundamentals over the course of six years. To be fair, there have been new features integrated over the years; Modern Warfare 2 introduced customizable and user-controller killstreaks, Black Ops included Theater mode and Black Ops 2 shipped with some major eSports integration, but the core fundamentals have remained the same.
Even the game engine has remained largely untouched over these past six years, more or less. There have been updated to the engine with each new iteration, don't get us wrong, but the technology is dated and it shows. Badly.
It is my belief that people are starting to grow tired of the same old 'earn kills, get a killstreak, level up, prestige, do it all over again' mentality. The time has passed where a trivial change such as scorestreaks over killstreaks can make a world of difference and revolutionize the franchise. Call of Duty needs innovation in a very serious way. The slate needs to be wiped clean and Call of Duty must be given a breath of fresh air.
"The slate needs to be wiped clean and Call of Duty must be given a breath of fresh air."
Case in point: over the past 6 years, five different Call of Duty games have featured the AK-47 assault rifle. One would assume that, given six years of game development, engine updates and massive hardware advancements, that the AK-47 would have been given quite an overhaul over the last half-decade.
Not so, however.
Take a look at the GIF below (click to view the animation) and see what we mean.
As is clearly seen in that animation, the AK-47 has hardly changed over the years. This same theme holds true across every single aspect of the franchise, with the one exception being Zombies.
To a degree, this repetition and stick-to-what-works mentality makes a lot of sense. Call of Duty sells well and resonates with its audience like no other franchise in history. Activision and the Call of Duty studios are obviously doing something right, if people keep picking the game up by the millions. I, myself, am a self-professed Call of Duty fan, albeit one with some qualms with the series.
The point we're trying to illustrate here is that there is a definite place for innovation in Call of Duty. Maybe killstreaks don't have to work the way they have for the last six years, it's possible that character animations and voiceover dialogue don't need to be near carbon copies of the last game in the franchise.
Call of Duty is hands-down the game to beat, right now, and if they want to stay that way for the foreseeable future, we think that innovation is a core pillar that they should be building their teams around.
Tune in next week for parts 2 and 3 to learn what we think are The 3 Things Call of Duty Has to Do to Stay on Top!