Call of Duty must evolve or die

I found this article on Computer and Games and it blew my mind how long it took them to realize that CoD is being milked to death.

 

Call of Duty's numbers are unholy. It sold over two million copies of Modern Warfare in month one, more than five and a half million Black Ops on day one. It's the billion dollar franchise - literally - with a stranglehold on the entire shooter genre.

It is, to quote Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg from a leaked memo, 'perhaps the stickiest game of all time' - an online phenomenon that made XP, Killstreaks and Perks part of our language. And it's dead. Dead on its feet and about to fall.

Activision know it, we know it, and if they don't act now to restart its heart... it's over. 'Isn't Call of Duty today just like Guitar Hero was a few years back?', asks Hirshberg in the same memo, in an attempt to recognise - and dispell - growing dissent. However, the User ratings on Metacritic have plummeted from 8.9 for Modern Warfare to a wretched 5.8 for both MW2 and Black Ops.


Complaints point to stagnation and over-saturation. Are these low scores from juvenile saboteurs? Battlefield fanboys? The victims of brand fatigue? Or a toxic mix of all three?

Activision's series has the 'network effect', so sales are driven by friends keeping up with friends. This means lag between people tiring of CoD and actually stopping buying it. A collapse could be years away, but it is coming, and CoD's enemies are not sitting around waiting.

After wresting the critical high ground from Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer with its FIFA games, EA knows how to fight a war of attrition - and how to win it. It's about matching your foe's every move, reducing its ability to innovate, turning its dominance into stalemate and - eventually - defeat. So this fight's about a lot more than just Battlefield 3 and MW3.

We're seeing the early skirmishes already, starting with the defection of CoD creators Vince Zampella and Jason West (plus many more from Infinity Ward) from Activision to the EA-funded Respawn.

So what weapons do EA wield besides Battlefield? There's Respawn's first game, which we know is a sci-fi shooter - perfectly placed to compete with Sledgehammer's rumoured Call of Duty: Future Warfare. With almost 40 key staff defecting from Infinity Ward, EA can happily market this as 'the new game from the creators of CoD'.

We also know that Battlefield-maker DICE has the best tech. Its sparkly new Frostbite 2.0 engine is built for the future, while Infinity Ward's tech - extended, shored up and repainted many times in the 12 years since its debut in Quake III Arena - is long overdue for demolition.

And we know that EA plans the same alternating release schedule for Battlefield and Medal Of Honor as Activision has for Modern Warfare and Black Ops. What this does is lock Call of Duty into an unending tug-of-war over market share in which it can never afford to relax. Faced with the need to build and advertise at least one war game every year, Activision won't be able to make the CoD of tomorrow different enough to the one of today.

Battlefield, on the other hand - a sophisticated class-based shooter with stunning looks - stands ready to steal players graduating from CoD's hamster wheel of headshots and unlocks. What can Activision do? It's already given EA a taste of its own staff-stealing medicine - Sledgehammer is led by Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey, the men behind EA's surprise horror smash, Dead Space.

And there's Elite, of course, the subscriber service designed to 'enrich' CoD's multiplayer with premium features such as stat tracking and DLC access, something that should drive investments in time as well as cash. Analysts estimate revenues up to $200 per gamer for each future CoD - anyone switching to Battlefield or MoH would be throwing that money away. It's the loyalty card to end them all.

But none of Activision's manoeuvres address the real issue. The Call of Duty template is stone dead on its feet, and a few extra CCs of set-piece adrenaline can only keep it twitching for so long. What it needs now is a massive shock to its heart: the shock of fundamental change. 

Jevrio's picture

I say stop the series, and find a new idea. However, I doubt they are capable of that. They're now too used to sell a shitload of whatever they name Call of Duty.

I have zero faith in them, but I do hope they will do something new.

Untill then, fuck them.

MrDudeMan's picture

Its remarkable how slow companies are to catch on to things. It reminds of the whole Axe body spray thing, where the company found out everyone thought its commercial were stupid like 2 years after the public came to that conclusion. I agree with jevrio though, and I think anyone still playing console games should just save up and buy a good pc, the indie games alone make it worth it. 

Pulse Cloud's picture

Very good read.

It still amazes me how Call of Duty is able to sell so well - I've played MW2 and Black Ops on the PC and they're only slightly fun. Some time ago I started MW1 and I just couldn't continue past the third level because the game was so bad and boring. It also had frame-rate problems, and my computer is more than able to run it flawlessly: bad performance-oriented programming??

You could say I didn't like MW1 because it's an older game, but I can play Halo: CE for two months straight and not get bored.

 

Maybe Call of Duty is so successful because its Multiplayer is so easy and slow-paced? Being able to kill someone in 0.2 seconds must give a sense of personal completion, so maybe that's CoD's key factor, along with the fact that the more you play the better weapons you get (lack of balance right from the start of the games) and those "kill 3 people and get a tactical nuke to end the game" streaks that both promote camping and further unbalance the game.

I've been watching MLG Anaheim and Halo is so, so much more fast-paced, skill-demanding and entertaining to watch than Black Ops. It's such a big difference. I guess it proves people want easier and easier games, just like RPGeesus's article explains.

Jevrio's picture

" I started MW1 and I just couldn't continue past the third level because the game was so bad and boring."

But MW2 and BO is slightly fun? Fuck you.

Even in real world, people can be killed in 0.2 seconds (or less). Not if you shoot them in the leg tho. And their eyes don't get filled with blood either.

Call of Duty has small maps, that makes it pretty fast-paced, atleast with some players. Play with a clan, or atleast with a team that cooperated, and you'll have all the action you need.

The earlier Call of Duty games, WITHOUT perks, is skill demanding. Atleast when it comes to aim-speed.

Pulse Cloud's picture

@Jevrio

Sorry to hit you inner fanboy's vein. Let me clarify: I could stand the campaigns of WaW, MW2 and BO because I finished them. I didn't exactly like them (horrible story, repetitive gameplay, uninteresting everything, etc.), but I could stand playing through them. The same didn't happen with MW1. That's what I meant.

"Even in real world, people can be killed in 0.2 seconds (or less)." Is that supposed to be an argument in favor of CoD or Battlefield or anything like those (they're all the same, really)? If so, I laugh at you.

"Call of Duty has small maps, that makes it pretty fast-paced, atleast with some players." I'm sure it can happen when your team is much better than the enemy team, but if the teams are at all similar in skill then the gameplay is stale and boring. Like I told you, I've watched MLG Pro gameplay, ie, the best in the world, and I couldn't stand the slow-pace, uninteresting gameplay.

Watch Halo (not just Reach) MLG Pro gameplay and see how ridiculously fast and error-punishing it is. I've seen teams who lost because one player choked on killing an enemy or because of one bad move.

You will also notice that, while BO players can basically chat and joke with their teams in the middle of an MLG Pro tournament because of the slow gameplay, Halo teams must be constantly calling out or they will simply lose. Watch Instinct play and see what I mean. They are the best of the best - won MLG Columbus losing one single game and won MLG Anaheim (yesterday) by winning EVERY SINGLE GAME.

MrDudeMan's picture

@ Pulsecloud

CoD 4 was vastly superior to all of the CoD games after it. Halo Reach is an awful example of a competitive fps game. Literally the only reason it is considered a competitive game is because MLG keeps it alive because halo 2 and 3 were the origin of MLG (and were both vastly superior to reach). Just because you can kill people very easily in black ops does not mean it is not a competitive game. The reason it isn't competitive is because of stupid things like perks, aim help and the stupid maps (These are all things reach has, but are somewhat avoidable because of forge). It is really easy to kill people in CS as well (though not as easy as it is in black ops), yet CS is a game that was much larger in the competitive scene the both halo reach and black ops. 

Pulse Cloud's picture

@MrDudeMan

I do know Reach is having trouble being accepted, but, aside from things like Armor Lock or sprinting with Swords or Shotguns, which are out of the MLG playlist, it is the most balanced out of all Halos.

You could argue Halo 2 was the most competitive Halo title, but it was so because of bugs and exploits.

The DMR is much harder to use than any other weapon on the entire series (don't even compare it to any of CoD's weapons, which kill with 3 bullets) aside from the Sniper, and that's why it gets all the hate.

I think it's just a trend to say Reach is bad. It isn't, teams like Instinct and Status Quo prove it marvelously, and I would like to know why it is "an awful example of a competitive fps game".

MrDudeMan's picture

There are many reasons why halo reach isn't competitive.

1. Maps

The maps in general are awful in the game. They look like they are made more for scenery than for balance and actual good gameplay. Halo 3 had a much wider variety of maps (Guardian, Heretic, Pits, Narrows, And all of the foundry maps). I think the only bungie made maps that are being used in reach mlg is zealot and countdown (the one with the spaceship), the rest are forge creations or remakes of old maps. While this could work, its pretty boring especially when everything is grey and green (or just grey).

2. Bloom

Bloom is a silly concept. I don't agree with the notion that the DMR is harder to use then the br. The fact that in halo 3 and 2 you could shoot while moving with no consequence made it so skills like strafing had to be learned in order to be competitive. I think the only reason why they put in bloom is because they wanted to decrease the skill gap between competitive players and casual players (also in some silly attempt to get more CoD players to play reach). 

3. Ranking System

I know this does not apply to MLG events, but it does turn away competitive gamers. The current ranking system in reach is a joke. What I don't understand is that this system is bad for competitive gamers but also bad for casual players. Firstly, the arena was a stupid idea, as it does not reward teamwork and objective gametypes are unplayable. Secondly, the lack of a ranking system just takes away from the game. It felt a lot more competitive in halo 3 when you were trying to get a 50 in the MLG ladder, it served as an incentive to win games and play as a team as opposed to just fighting for kills. What I don't get about the ranking system (the whole credit thing) is that it is discouraging to casual gamers, you need like 20 million credits to get the highest rank, and you get like maybe 3000 a game (if you are lucky, I am aware they are upping it now). 

4. Aim assist

I don't know if bungie has released any statement on this, but I am pretty sure there is more aim assist in reach than in halo 3 and 2. Sniping is quite easier in reach than it was in halo 3 and 2.

5. Bad weapons/ Armour abilities

Last time I played reach, they still had sprint (as well as some other ones) as an armour ability in mlg. Armour abilities are a stupid gimick (similar to the equipment from halo 3), most of them are inbalanced and only make people frustrated. There was no reason to include them other than the fact that they wanted more casual gamers. Weapons are also odd in reach. The rocket launcher is far too strong and the splash on it is pretty ridiculous. The snipers spawn too quickly and are easier to use as well as more lethal. Grenades are too strong and you have too many of them.  Also the beat down system is broken, the old version in halo 3 was far superior to this new one. 

Pulse Cloud's picture

I kind of agree with the maps, but some of the Forged maps are pretty amazing.

Bloom isn't affected by movement at all. Bloom only grows if you shoot and the faster you shoot. It takes much more skill to use a DMR than it took to use a BR because of that: if you spam you get destroyed by those who know how to shoot optimally, which doesn't mean shooting every 5 seconds, but adapting the rate of fire to the distance between you and the enemy. Now THAT takes skill - it's not just pressing the button as fast as you can (and the BR had a fixed rate of fire limit).

Aim assist seems to be a bit higher, but it is needed because of the DMR being much more precise than the BR. You just had to shoot i the general direction of the head to get a headshot. With the DMR you can shoot the neck.

Armor Abilities are in MLG and proved to be an amazing addition. Sprint is default and you can't use it right after spawn - you must wait a few seconds -, so it speeds up gameplay yet doesn't make CTF impossible. Evade is a power weapon and is treated as such. Jetpack is seldom used, but Instinct used it very well, surprising many teams with their insane strategies.

The Rocket Launcher is now a monster of a weapon, and it should be. It should be a weapon to fear and to fight for, and it is now that it is so powerful. Weapon spawns are fully customizable, so it's not a problem. I don't know why you say they spawn too quickly, though. In CoD you can spawn with Snipers and Rocket Launchers and Shotguns and Double Shotguns, so I REALLY don't know why you're talking about spawn times.

The MLG beatdown is the best yet. Halo 3's was horrible.

 

Anyway, when Halo 4 comes out I'm ABSOLUTELY SURE people will say it's bad and Reach will be the best game ever. It has happened with every Halo game released - even Halo 2 and Halo 3.

There will be a Title Update sometime around November, and many changes will be made to make Reach feel more classic. Does that

MrDudeMan's picture

Well its pretty clear you are a fan of reach, so it doesn't really matter what I say as my opinions are based on my tastes and yours are based on your taste. However the fact remains that reach is a bad competitive game, as its pretty evident it is dying. 

Jevrio's picture

@Pulse Cloud: Sorry simply isn't enough. I can never forgive your sins.

Whiplash's picture

Enough with the fan-dumbass wars right now. We don't want the Staff to see this, do we now?

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