Daily Reaction: Is Call of Duty’s Future Black?

Daily Reaction is a new feature where Sebastian Moss & Dan Oravasaari discuss today’s most hard-hitting topics every single weekday.

It’s no surprise that Call of Duty has been taking the world by storm every year, as even some of the biggest franchises make room for its yearly winter release. Having broken day one sales for the last few years, it has just shown that the franchise has become more than a game release, it has become an anticipated event for millions around the world. Having endured the fallout and lawsuits from the original team that made up Infinity Ward, and even splintered into two franchises, it’s hard to imagine that much will slow down the momentum it’s already built. So, what will happen during this year’s Black Ops 2 release? Are we just going to see another set of record sales? Or will we finally see the first bit of waver in sales? We discuss Activision’s claim that COD‘s growth isn’t over.

Dan: I honestly think the release of CoD:Black Ops 2 will break record sales. It’s not a statement that needs a crystal ball, the franchise has just become a staple of this generation. That being said, the biggest tell for the series future will obviously be either next year’s release – or what they do on the next-generation of consoles. As Modern Warfare has finished its arc, and Black Ops will either finish during its sequel, or be dragged onto a trilogy in 2014, it’s hard to see them gaining any more momentum. So if they cannot insert another two new and more exciting set-pieces after this year, I think this year will be the peak of the Call of Duty franchise.

Seb: In many ways, the splintering of Infinity Ward was the best thing that could have happened to COD for Activision because it stopped Bobby Kotick going crazy again. Guitar Hero was a huge multi-billion dollar behemoth, and Kotick got greedy, started releasing DJ Hero, Band Hero, Piccolo Hero and more with different peripherals and barely any time between them. And what happened? The music games industry crashed. So, having not learned anything from their own history, Kotick planned on releasing a COD third person game and another unknown COD game, on top of the annual COD releases. But with Infinity Ward in trouble, those projects were cancelled to bring the teams in to work on MW3 and whatever their next gen game is. As long as Acti doesn’t ramp up their craziness again, and just sticks to annual COD releases I think that it’ll stick around for quite a while as long as they change the setting at least a little and continue marketing it more than an election campaign.

Dan: I actually disagree, the leaving of Jason West and Frank Zampella marked the inevitable death of the series. Bobby Kotick as you said has a knack for bleeding any popular product to death, so what would have been best for the series in the long-run would have been to keep a developer – who was willing to stand up and stop the madness. Cause all the splintering of Infinity Ward did was delay the fact that we will see a Call of Duty Hero, and other branded products with the CoD logo stamped on them. There is just nothing left to stop Kotick from releasing branded plates and backpacks, that will sit on shelves next to Dora the Explorer, and Hannah Montana. On top of the major problem that Infinity Ward as it currently stands cannot find a way to improve on the product. It has taken Treyarch, a once regarded “B-team” developer to push the franchise to new heights, by including new modes like Zombie, and Strike Force. Infinity Ward, is now just a shell, and just cannot keep this series afloat by themselves anymore.

Seb: I agree with the fact that there’s nothing stopping Kotick making COD toothbrushes, but I disagree with the fact that West or Zampella would have been able to stand against him. COD4’s modern setting was originally actually hidden from Activision who wanted another WW2 game – that’s something that could now never happen, Activision is watching every COD game like a hawk, ensuring that everything is incredibly similar to the last title. But that’s not going to affect sales that much. I might be a bit of a cynical bastard, but it’s a fact that most people are stupid or cautious. They always buy the same thing because a) they can’t bother looking for something better or b) they’ve found something they like, and don’t see the need to risk their money on something else. As long as those people exist, and Activision doesn’t overdo it with a COD game a week, they’ll be able to milk the gamers year in year out, until that generation of players has grown up. COD isn’t going to go anywhere any time soon, it might fluctuate in sales by a few million here and there, but as long as there’s people out there that don’t want to try something new, don’t mind watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and eat the same meal every Wednesday, then Activision’s bank balance is going to be pretty rosy.

Are you excited for this year’s installment of Call of Duty, or are you starting to feel wary of the series annual release cycle? Which CoD do you think was the pinnacle of the franchise? and will they surpass it before we see a dip in sales? Let us know in the comments, and follow both Seb and Dan on Twitter to hear more.