2016 Should Be The Wake Up Call Activision Needs!
There seems to be good news along with bad news regarding how Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare did financially. The good news is that it was a success based on the data collected from several third party groups. The bad news is that the numbers are also an embarrassment compared to what the series use to bring.
By the end of 2016, Infinite Warfare has sold over 4.46 million copies while being the No.1 selling game in the UK for eight weeks and the fourth best selling game in the PlayStation Store during the Holiday Season. Not all of this is good as retail sales were down by 50% compared to Black Ops III according to data from the NDP. Even though the series is still profitable for Activision, it’s no longer the flagship brand it use to be nor does it command the same respect from gamers.
Activision can not brush this off with excuses about a new series or competition from Battlefield 1 (says a lot when more gamers would rather experience the Great War over the cosmos). These numbers should be a wake up call that the series needs to go into a new direction as the simple run and gun action is no longer appealing.
Given that series was a dominating force for so long, settling for third or forth place should be unacceptable. Nobody is expecting another hit like Black Ops II or Modern Warfare III but they have been a slight improvement over Ghosts while a shadow of what the series use to make. If the series doesn’t undergo a series change, these numbers are only going to get worst.
Not helping is that industry trends in 2017 are going to be stacked against Call of Duty. Electronic Arts has been on a winning streak with several major hits and a series of marketing campaigns that have rebuilt their reputation.Even though there will not be a new Battlefield, the competition will instead be against Star Wars: Battlefront II. UbiSoft has also abandoned the yearly release plan and is expected to release a new Assassins Creed this year. To make matters worst for Activision, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the most highly anticipated title of the year and it’s set to be released around the same time.
It’s hard to argue when the formula has worked for so long while whining about the lack of change has been a tradition since 2011. But this is no longer 2011 nor are we still in the Seventh-Generation era of gaming. Ask any business leader or consultant and they will tell you that “this is how we always do it” is one of the most dangerous expressions in the workplace. Times change and what was a successful formula five years ago may not be applicable today. Titles like Far Cry 4, Overwatch and Destiny have reshaped the concept of the shooter genre while titles like Doom have mixed modern innovation with old school fun.
Meanwhile the banter of the series not changing has now morphed into expert analysis who see the numbers and are not optimistic about the future. Call of Duty is a franchise that has been potential to grow but the gameplay needs to change. This change can’t be a minor tweak but more like a major overhaul. It won’t hurt if the series starts experimenting with open-world or squad based tactical shooters. Black Ops II and Infinite Warfare had a good starting-off point with their gameplay but more needs to be done.
For example, there is an opportunity for the Infinite Warfare story to grow with the right gameplay. Instead of the same gameplay, Infinity Ward could look to games like No Man’s Sky and Far Cry 4 (its open world and exploration setting) along with Rainbow Six (tactical squad based action) for inspiration while keeping the Call of Duty action. Imagine a game were players must lead their squad to different planets were they need to complete a series of objectives to liberate it from the Settlement Defense Front. This is just one suggestion as others may have better ideas or something just as good.
Change is never easy and breaking from the comfort zone is always a difficult task for some one. However the numbers don’t lie and Call of Duty is seriously in need of a major overhaul. The leadership could take the incentive to redefine the genre or stay in their safe space and play their fiddle as Rome burns in the background.
Do you think Acitivsion has the potential to save the Call of Duty series and what should be done to save the franchise? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.