Stay the same or shake up the formula: how can Call Of Duty keep fans happy?
Another year means (of course) another Call Of Duty: and all the speculation can now officially end. It's not another Ghosts, it's not a WWII retread or a return to modern day.
Infinite Warfare is coming to the endless franchise, pushing us forward into the future for a more sci-fi experience, meshing both boots on the ground run-and-gun with aerial space dog fights.
If this were nearly any other franchise, that news would be met with wild cries of exuberant exaltation. But this is Activision and the perennially mocked Call Of Duty, the somehow less legitimate step-cousin of Battlefield and Arma.
Instead of joy at getting something rooted in familiar gameplay with a new and interesting twist, we fickle gamers decided to make this one of the most downvoted videos in the entire history of YouTube:
An Unhappy Fanbase
Scrolling through the comments on the trailer and on the various Facebook game pages, a common theme emerges with a weird cry of “ditch that Halo stuff!” and “we only want WWII or modern war gaming!”
This is quite an interesting phenomena, because only a year or two back it was in vogue to mock Call Of Duty for being the exact same thing, year after year, as fans and detractors alike called for a change to the formula.
When that arrived with the futuristic Black Ops III and now again with the upcoming Infinite Warfare, the criticism hasn't died down – in fact it's increased. It's just somehow reversed.
- Whiny Internet Trolls Then: Call Of Duty is such a joke! It's the same damn thing every single year! Quit milking the cash cow and try something new!
- Whiny Internet Trolls Now: Call Of Duty is such a joke! This sci-fi space stuff is lame! This series was only good when it was the same damn thing every year! Go back to that!
It's clear the developer (in this case Infinity Ward) and publisher (Activision) can't win on either front, so the only question is – will it sell despite all the complaints?
The answer is almost certainly a yes, even if there has been a downward trend in sales with successive CoD iteration over the last few years. One of the major reasons will actually be all the negative press.
The huge number of downvotes put the trailer on the Facebook trending bar for days – meaning untold additional millions of people just saw it. Downvotes don't mean lack of sales, either.
Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg issued this statement about the situation, and why it likely won't hurt sales in the slightest:
"First of all you got to love the passion of gamers, this is an industry like no other, and a fan base like no other and we love that our fans treat this franchise like it's their own and have such strong points of view about it. There just aren't many entertainment franchises on Earth that can generate the kind of passion that Call of Duty can and that's a good thing.
"Secondly, of course we know that there are people in our community who are nostalgic for the boots on the ground style gameplay, and that's why we made Modern Warfare Remastered. But we also have millions of people in our community who want to have new innovative experiences in the game each year and Infinite Warfare is going to deliver that. And the good news is this year we found a way to deliver both in one package while keeping our community together.
"Views of the reveal trailer that you referred to are up and, in fact, the number of likes per view on the Infinite Warfare reveal trailer are also the highest we've ever seen. We've seen this in the franchise before. The reveal trailer for Black Ops II, which took the franchise into the future for the first time, had the most dislikes of any reveal trailer we had ever made at that time. And that, of course, went on to become our most successful game ever."
That remastered version of Modern Warfare mentioned in the statement is precisely why Infinite Warfare is going to succeed. With all the frenzied Internet flaming going on, detractors don't seem to realize they actually got exactly what they asked for in both eras of directly contradictory complaints. There's something new in a futuristic setting, and something old with a re-done version of a classic game.
Harsh, but potentially true.
The problem is, Activision has done this in the most obnoxiously evil, least player-friendly way possible, by forcing consumers to buy a special edition of Infinite Warfare to get the new version of Modern Warfare.
That's very good for Activision, but very bad for gamers, who want to buy one or the other and not have to shell out the $80 to get both in a single bundle. Even if players hate it, the move is a business-savvy one, and will almost certainly mean an uptick in sales.
Mustard Gas And Zeppelins Vs. Spacecraft And Lasers
If you look at overall sales of the entire series, Call Of Duty has far outstripped Battlefield to an enormous degree. The fact that Battlefield is actively going back to WWI might throw a wrench in the works for Infinite Warfare though, and there's no denying there is a more positive reception to the Battlefield 1 teaser trailer.
The fact that that the confusingly titled Battlefield 1 comes out a full month earlier also seems like a boon – until you consider history. Despite the lack of a rushed yearly release schedule like Call Of Duty or Assassin's Creed (since alleviated somewhat on the COD front with three developers now in the mix), DICE is no stranger to launch day problems.
They particularly bogged Battlefields 4's release, and a repeat of that could be a serious boost for Infinite Warfare -- especially if they are still fresh in people's minds when November 4th rolls around.
The Future And Needed Changes
While offering old and new together might be just what the doctor ordered to save CoD and prevent a Battlefield deathblow, the question is if it will finally piss off the player base enough that interest is lost in the next iteration, and whether sales will be large enough that the publisher decides to keep going that route.
It's not out of the question to assume the same formula might be followed again. When Advanced Warfare 2 (or whatever 2017's game is going to be) arrives, it might also have a remastered version of a WWII or Modern Warfare title, forcing you to buy the game you don't want to get the game that you do.
So what can Infinity Ward and their evil corporate masters from Activsion do to see Call Of Duty continue as an unstoppable juggernaut? The only option is to take the route that players are specifically saying they don't want: innovate, and offer up something spectacular that we didn't see coming.
Of course the standard versus battles have to be polished, but what Infinite Warfare and future iterations really need are something new on the multiplayer front that grabs people by the throat and won't let up.
The aliens from Extinction Mode in Call Of Duty: Ghosts were an interesting idea, but it clearly flopped among fans, who seem to much prefer the zombie mode of the Black Ops series.
Survival Mode in Modern Warfare 3 was a ton of fun, and something along those lines that's more cooperative could be huge if implemented correctly and designed around larger groups of players. Think something along the lines of the Gears Of War Horde Mode, but tailored to the FPS experience in a sci-fi setting.
The bottom line is that if both Infinite Warfare and its remastered companion don't truly wow, there's room here for Call Of Duty to finally tumble off its pedestal, as many a rabid online commentator will like to see.
Although it would mean a loss of immediate revenue, it may be time for the series to take a break and avoid the implosion that occurred with Assassin's Creed when a truly broken game finally launched.
The developers responsible for COD very well may need to regroup, rethink the whole series, and return with something spectacular a few years from now when all the hate has died down.
What do you think of the upcoming Infinite Warfare and its plan to only offer the remastered Modern Warfare in a bundle? Does this signal a desperate move to stave off the end of the series, or are you excited to pick up both titles on release day, and how does the new Battlefield trailer affect your buying decision? Let us know down in the comments!