This is How Call of Duty Can Once Again Be King of the Hill
The Call of Duty series is on a decline. Sales have been down and new releases have become stagnant. Its very own fan base has started moving on to other shooters like Overwatch, Battlefield 1, and a few to Titanfall 2, while newcomers ignore future releases. Activision seems to know this, but instead of revitalizing the franchise, it seems to be wringing the cash cow dry until there is nothing left. All is not lost, since Call of Duty is a monumental franchise it can afford to take risks smaller titles wouldn't dare doing. This is how Call of Duty can once again be the king of first person shooters.
Take a Break
This may be the most important move Activision could make currently. Go the way of Assassin's Creed and take a break from the yearly sequels flooding the market. It only takes repetition to make a good thing stale, and Call of Duty has saturated its market with mediocre games. Spend this time to focus on new IP's and to craft a truly amazing game. Every Zelda title is nearly the same game at its core, but with high polish and patience, Nintendo creates an experience that wows consumers almost every time. Rockstar does this as well with the Grand Theft Auto series going strong even with its numerous sequels. Being patient and creating a demand for a new Call of Duty game will allow you to capitalize fully on each individual sequel.
Look to the Past
The Call of Duty franchise has some of the most influential shooters in recent memory. Modern Warfare is still considered one of the best games of all time, turning shooters into the modern age. What Call of Duty forgot was that these games had a sense of pace. Yes, you went through battle after battle, but their were quiet moments amidst the chaos. All Ghillied Up is considered one of the best levels in the Call of Duty franchise and it consists primarily of sneaking past guards in silence. These old games created pacing which allowed these big set pieces to be even more spectacular. The modern titles fail to do this; throwing as many set pieces it can in hope something is memorable.
This leads to the second lesson these older games could teach Activision, that all games need a focus. The memorable Call of Duty games stuck to a few ideas and used them to their full potential. Starting with Black Ops 2 however, Call of Duty had wildly different levels with little connection in tone or context. Instead of diving deep with a few core mechanics, Call of Duty only provided a shallow experience with its overabundance of useless features. Call of Duty must re-find its core mechanics and use them to engage both fans and newcomers alike.
Find Its Niche
Before Call of Duty reinvented itself with Modern Warfare, it was an engaging WWII shooter franchise that was moderately successful. They had a niche audience that could be pleased through releasing quality content. Now, instead of finding a niche audience to please, it shoots for the largest audience possible and fails to truly please anyone. Without a focus, Call of Duty just meanders throughout phases, never committing in hopes of rekindling the power it had with Modern Warfare. Modern Warfare however was a product of the times, it showed off new realistic graphics and introduced a new style of multiplayer. Call of Duty will likely not have that type of success ever again, and the sooner it realizes it needs to please an audience instead of becoming the next hit, the better the games will become.
Gamers have moved on to the next big star and Call of Duty must now provide something unique to attract gamers. Adapt or die.
Now all is not lost for this aging franchise. As long as Activision provides a polished, engaging experience, Call of Duty will not die off. Activision just needs to understand that their time for fame is waning and they must appease an actual fan base instead of just trying to get attention.
Trying to replicate the success of Modern Warfare is impossible, but there are numerous ways to maintain a successful franchise. If Activision truly wants this franchise to succeed in the long term, it must focus on making quality titles that have a purpose instead of fast cash-ins just meant to make money.