Once it’s all said and done, when does Activison finally put the last nail in Call of Duty’s coffin?
The inevitable end to a series often comes too soon, or it appears that way, and tough decisions must be made: let the series stay in a prolonged period of slumber, discontinue the effort, or keep on trucking like nothing has changed. Almost the universal answer to that question these days is the latter, as we’ve seen with Gears of War: Judgement and Halo 4, and hints that Assassin’s Creed and Dead Space shall proceed beyond their formidable conclusions.
The phenomenon known as “sequelitis” (not a foreign concept by any means) is so categorically implanted in video game dogma that it’s expected a studio will cling to a name for years. To be successful is to build a solid and recognizable brand, according to any publisher you ask, and consumers have dictated it that way. People can kick-and-scream all they want, but as long as the next iteration outsells or perches closes to expectations, another game is coming. It’s the sad truth of many videogame brouhahas yearly: consumers fuel the industry and publishers are trying to adapt or push the limits of what is acceptable. Yet we blindly purchase game after game regardless of the circumstances.
It is understated how many fans see this as a serious issue, for studios to breathe life into a finished series. That comes with the territory of success: publishers rely on powerful sales numbers to keep the books complete and brokers happy, dismissing other potentially lucrative ideas as a consequence. Activision is the idyllic example; because the fan base goes gaga for Call of Duty every year, the publisher has transformed into a one-trick pony.
Which may change with Bungie’s Destiny supposedly coming out in 2013. However, the weak sales numbers of High Moon’s Transformers: Fall of Cybertron didn’t help. But because Call of Duty averages 15 million units sold, Activision could operate on that income alone. But the train runs dry eventually, and all CEO Bobby Kotick will want is another first-person shooter series to unsympathetically drive into the ground.
Lost in the tussle of this debate is the fact that this industry is a business. Activision has a league of shareholders to appease, and if the company has an influential and absurdly profitable product, all the more power to them. But the decision boils down to one thing: immediate success or success long-term. Call of Duty has enough of a foothold to last a long time, if it had a two-year cycle. The year-after-year-after-year-after-year-after-year-after-year release tires out fans, and because the games are popular consumers can afford to forego a year due to the overwhelming multiplayer numbers.
It may well take another franchise to dominate the start of a ninth console generation, if possible, to slow down Call of Duty. Or Activision’s military might could hold strong for another half-decade. And that’s discounting any improvements to the engine over a console leap, which is an unlikely scenario. Graphical enhancements would only strengthen the series’ seemingly unreachable plateau of success.
Where and when further games go is what will push Call of Duty‘s lead even further or doom it to oblivion. Space is the next frontier, so to speak, or to the past, before World War II. The American Civil War is a setting rarely explored in top-notch titles, and Infinity Ward’s/Treyarch’s take would be interesting to see.
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