Daily Reaction: How Call of Duty Consumed a Generation of Gamers

Everyone loves to hate Call of Duty, the best selling franchise of the generation, due to the fact it doesn’t change much, its length and, frankly, its success. But the developer of shooter Red Orchestra 2 has raised another issue – the series has destroyed a generation of players. Is this true, and if so, is it a problem? Daily Reaction’s Seb and Dan discuss.

Seb: Tripwire’s President John Gibson recently talked to PCGamer about the company’s upcoming DLC for shooter Red Orchestra 2, titled Rising Storm. In the interview, the developer revealed his concerns about how Call of Duty has captured an entire generation of gamers, ruining shooters, and games in general, for them.

I’m really discouraged by the current state of multiplayer shooters. I think that, and I hate to mention names, because it sounds like ‘I’m just jealous of their success,’ but I’m really, I feel like Call of Duty has almost ruined a generation of FPS players.

He continued by explaining how he brought a bunch of hardcore COD players together and tried to see if he could make a version of his game that they would enjoy, by making it more casual, but not by making it more like Call of Duty.  “And just listening to all the niggling, pedantic things that they would complain about, that made them not want to play the game, I just thought, ‘I give up. Call of Duty has ruined this whole generation of gamers.’”

He summarized some of the complaints:

“The weapons really don’t have a lot of power” [in RO2]. They’re all very weak. The way they handle… They’re like: “I hate Red Orchestra, I can’t play it.” Well, why? “Because the guy doesn’t move like he does in Call of Duty. Call of Duty has great movement.” Why is it great? “Because it just is, I just like the way it works.” So you don’t like the momentum system in Red Orchestra? “Yeah, it sucks, it’s clunky, it’s terrible.” Well, why? “It’s just because I’m used to this.”

Now, we have to take a lot of this with a grain of salt, because he is a competing developer, and RO isn’t the greatest game of all time (it’s alright). But there is still a lot to take away from these comments – at least 20 million copies of the latest COD iteration is sold every year, and then there’s all the millions of COD clones that add to that number. So that’s a hugely significant part of the gaming industry – both in population and in revenue.

In the old days, we would get people who were obsessed with a genre or a franchise, but, due to the long dev cycles and no multiplayer, a lot of them ended up trying out other things the next year or so, allowing for a natural evolution of the industry. Now? People buy COD, play it online, play it online some more, buy the DLC, buy the next DLC, and then buy next year’s version. There’s no reason for them to break that cycle. There’s no reason for them to try something different.

The explosion of Call of Duty’s popularity came about this gen and, as the 360 and PS3 come to an end, its success has finally shown some signs of faltering. But it’s not to enough of a degree to show that COD will become irrelevant any time soon – the next generation will likely be led by Activision and their shooter brand.

Unfortunately, this means that millions of gamers are only playing this game, or similar games that have copied the style to appeal to them, and they’ll never try anything new. Many of them are a lost cause, a lost generation of gamers.

Dan: The issue that surrounds this debate is – what kind of segment of the audience or market are developers trying to appeal to? As it seems the casual market, which includes the rabid COD fanbase, is the biggest segment of the population for potential customers. Now, many people will argue that people who spend 30 hrs a week playing a single game are not ‘casual’, but they are just as much as anyone who drops the same amount of time into Angry Birds or tending to their virtual farm. But, the problem is that this segment of the audience is not as easily swayed as the more mobile form to branch out, as they seem less capable of moving past their single sphere of influence.

It was a smart move for Activision to develop a game that appealed to this section of the audience by allowing almost anyone to play, while being constantly rewarded for doing something anyone can do. This ability to get the feeling of achievement while not being completely dragged down by more skilled players is the secret sauce for the casual market, as no one is put out in the cold.

Now, what does all of this mean for the overall market? Well it means that the number of gamers who have been bred on COD should have been able to expand beyond being a casual gamer, but are being constrained within that single demographic. This, in short, is a drain on other segments of the industry, as gamers are not able to move across genres to expand those markets that should be growing. So, in this sense, yes, COD is destroying a generation of gamers, as they will never actually know what really happened this console cycle beyond the evolution of the Killstreak.

Now the real problem of having such a vast and adamant fanbase who know little more than a single title, is that it has become a detriment to developers that are trying to develop unique FPS titles. The best example of this on PlayStation, by far, has been Guerrilla Games’ Killzone 2, a game that was lambasted for having ‘bad controls’. Yet, the issue was not in the game itself, but in the minds of the people expecting it to feel a certain way. In a statement by Seb Downie, producer of Killzone 2, he explained that the game is not supposed to be like other games. “It is not a twitchy, split-second gun-wielding experience like some shooters.” This issue of expectation is what will destroy segments of the market, as the inability for FPS fans to switch between games is now becoming the problem of developers and not the audience.

Do you think that Call of Duty has destroyed the minds of millions of gamers? And is it their fault? Should developers wise up and make all their games just like COD? Let us know in the comments below, or by following our annual tweets at Seb and Dan and emailing us at [email protected].