Editorials

Call of Duty is doooooomed! Well, not really, sorry.

Sean, our resident Call of Duty fan, weighs in on the internet buzzing that the lower pre-orders for Ghosts spells doom for the juggernaut franchise.

Sean Mesler

I will be the first to say that Call of Duty: Ghosts’ E3 2013 presence was underwhelming. Sure Activision had a huge booth pretty much dedicated to 3 titles with Ghosts being one of them, but there just didn’t seem to be any buzz. And outside of an admittedly impressive tech demo, the two levels shown off were from the presentation earlier online the Sunday before E3 kicked off proper. Coupled with the fact that Titanfall pretty much stole every shooter’s thunder, Call of Duty: Ghosts kind of felt underwhelming.

Flash forward to last Thursday and Activision Blizzard’s Q1 earnings call, and Activision stated that pre-orders for the new entry in the mega-successful franchise were “well below the record-setting pace set by Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 last year.” This set off palpable reverberations across the gaming community where Call of Duty’s vocal critics were starting to feel vindicated that the iterative franchise was finally “doomed.” When Activision pointed to the impending next gen shift as the reason, these naysayers dismissed this reasoning as nothing more than a placating excuse for Activision Blizzard’s shareholders and that the real reason is anything from reasonable “franchise fatigue” to the far more ridiculous “cut and paste” accusations leveled at the series year after year.

This really looks like the underwater version of Call of Duty 4′s “All Ghillied Up.”

 

I don’t subscribe to the “cut and paste” claims because 1) they’re ridiculously overblown and overused, and 2) clearly these people don’t know what “cut and paste” actually means. I absolutely believe it’s primarily for the reason that Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, has stated.

“Our quantitative consumer research indicates that hesitation amongst past COD pre-orderers is primarily due to not knowing which platform they will be playing on, which is natural at this time in the console transition,” Hirshberg said during the call.

Allow me to offer my personal experience as an example. Since Call of Duty 2 I have played every single Call of Duty game on the Xbox 360. Prior to May 21st, I had assumed I would be playing the next entry on Mircosoft’s next console for a litany or reasons that range from my preference of Achievements to Trophies to the simple fact that I assumed that was where my friends would be playing it. Then the Xbox One revealed happened, followed swiftly by a barrage of PR nonsense talking about fees for used games, my interest in the Xbox One came to a screeching halt.  Three weeks later, when the policy hit regarding used games and trade ins were being funneled through “participating retailers,” my mind was made up: I was not buying an Xbox One.

Mind you, while I was leaning towards PlayStation 4 going into E3, I wasn’t entirely sure I was all-in because Sony had yet to truly lay out their plan for used games. That is until Jack Trenton took the stage during the Sony E3 press conference and proceeded to drop bomb after bomb stating used games will be supported as always and culminating with that price point of $399.99. I immediately went on Amazon and pre-ordered the PS4.

At that point I still hadn’t decided what console I wanted Call of Duty: Ghosts on and after attending E3 and seeing a ton of great games, I came out with one thing known for sure – Call of Duty: Ghosts left me underwhelmed but I was blown away by Respawn’s Titanfall. Yeah, yeah, I know the meme, but it’s true – Titanfall showed great and laid out very clearly what its intentions were and gave a great sense of the overall pacing of the game. Call of Duty: Ghosts showed basically the underwater version of “All Ghillied Up” from Call of Duty 4, and a jungle level where the highlight was using Riley the dog to breach and clear a room. Even before seeing Titanfall, the levels Infinity Ward chose to show weren’t very impressive.

Titanfall’s fast-paced gameplay, mobility and friggin’ Mechs make Call of Duty: Ghosts look like, well, something a lot slower and without Mechs.

That being said, I still love Call of Duty and I have faith that they haven’t shown the best of what they have to offer so I knew that I was still in for Call of Duty. There was also the fact that Titanfall was an Xbox One exclusive and Microsoft hadn’t yet reversed their policy on used games and such. That said, I wasn’t sure where I was going to be playing Ghosts. A lot of my friends hadn’t yet decided, even after the reversal. So were we going to stay the course and get it on Xbox 360? Or would more of my friends come over to the Sony camp for this year’s game?

Finally, I decided I wanted the best version of Call of Duty: Ghosts I could get and I knew that me getting an Xbox One was going to be put off until the release of Titanfall, so I bit the bullet and pre-ordered Ghosts for PlayStation 4. This decision took me 2 months from reveal to pre-order and I am one of the most decisive, and convicted people anyone will ever meet. My situation could be an edge case, but then there is the fact that some people don’t even know if they will be able to acquire a next gen console by November 5th due to either having the money or availability.  As such I have absolutely no doubt that Call of Duty: Ghosts’ lower pre-orders can be attributed to the next gen transition Hirshberg alluded to in that quote.

Does that mean it’s the only reason? Of course I don’t think that. There are a lot of options on the horizon for shooters and platforms. Battlefield 4‘s glorious next-gen destruction is hypnotic, and Killzone: Shadowfall looks like a game changer for the always-brown franchise. And, like I said after E3, Titanfall is casting a giant shadow over the reigning commercial king of shooters and maybe the glimpse into the future of shooters makes the minor iterations of Call of Duty seem troubling.

Hirshberg also said, “Ghosts pre-orders are over double those of Call of Duty: Black Ops, which is the last time we launched a new sub-brand for the franchise.” Bare in mind that the first Black Ops went on to sell 13.7 million in the US alone. One thing is for certain, the franchise that earned half a billion dollars in its first 24 hours less than a year ago and is still the most played game on Xbox Live isn’t going to slow down in any drastic way and only the fringe, vocal minority with their odd wishful thinking will see it any differently.

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  • Mike Jones

    no skill ceiling…so it sucks….that is all :)

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Ted Polak

    I don’t have CoD knowledge, but how does the game have no skill ceiling? And wouldn’t no skill ceiling be kind of a good thing?

  • Mike Jones

    because the difference between a good player and a bad player isnt that much….couple that with all the things in the games that require no skill(claymores,hunter killer) and you have a game that you can never be consistently good at…go ask anyone who has played cod how many times they have had some great game and go 50-3 or something and then in the very next game with all the same people in it they go negative…this goes against everything that the fps genre was built upon where great players dominate bad players 99% of the time and they only way to do better,was to get better :)

  • Sean Mesler

    From my vast experience that is not true. My friends and I constantly dominated every game and team we played. And I can tell you that I was pretty terrible when I started playing COD and now I’m not. Though I play Domination where KD doesn’t matter much on the outcome of the game.

    If you use the right perks Hunter Killers and Claymore’s mean nothing.

    Yes, Ted, not having a skill ceiling is a good thing.

  • Mike Jones

    playing in a full party vs a bunch of randoms is not what i was saying,i’m talking individual skill level…when you were first starting out and you were so bad,i bet you still got kills,i bet you still won some games,i bet you still had some games where you came in first place on your team right? go play the quakes,UT’s,old battlefields,counter strikes and see how you do against veteran players…here’s a hint to the outcome,you will be crushed,over and over again…but im guessing you and ted haven’t played those games,saying that having no or low skill ceilings in a competitive game is a good thing, is saying you don’t care about being killed or defeated by brand new players after you’ve invested hundreds of hours into it,which is pretty ridiculous :)

  • Sean Mesler

    Sure I got kills because I know how to point and shoot, but it wasn’t significant and also, Call of Duty 4 was the first game in the series to have THAT many players so a lot of use were playing it competitively for the first time. But no, I didn’t have any games that I came in first on my team. What part of “I was terrible” is giving you trouble? Lol. I. Was. Terrible. You can’t start out any game and have skill.

    I’ve played all of those except Counter Strike, and yeah I did poorly which is to be expected with every competitive game when going against “veteran” players. The same thing happens in COD. And like COD if I liked the gameplay enough to invest my time I would get better at the game. Bad players remain bad players. Sorry if you’re experience differs from mine and my friends.

    But yes, I think having no skill ceiling in a COMPETITIVE game, based on your definition of what a “skill ceiling” is, is a bad thing. Having matches be one-sided all the time isn’t competitive.

    It’s cool that we disagree. You don’t like Call of Duty. I do. No bigs.

  • Mike Jones

    well im not one of these people who say cod fans are terrible people for liking it don’t get me wrong there….its fine to like it for the fun factor alone,but as far as the genre is concerned,it takes significantly less skill to play and do well at… which is why people who do enjoy having to grind and learn the ins and outs of a game before they can compete dislike it….in those games i mentioned knowing how to point and shoot will get you nowhere….the level design,deadliness of the weapons regardless of skill(i mean come on people whine about guns being underpowered if they don’t drop someone in 2-3 shots to the body)and the things that take no skill that i also mentioned (why should you have to choose a perk loadout to combat such things?) make it a game where no individual is head and shoulders above the rest….go take a look at the xcals and waldodudes of the world that play cod…these are people who were at the top of professional fps play,and who constantly are killed by brand new players through no fault of their own other than being unlucky…in a truly competitive game players of a certain caliber should basically never lose a battle with someone of lesser skill,thats why its skill…would some first grader ever be able to score a touchdown in the superbowl against pro players?…so why is it acceptable for that to happen in a video game that is supposedly based off of skills….sorry for the droning,and again i don’t think you or anyone else is bad or any less of a gamer for liking cod,merely want to point out that its not competitive by the pure definition of the word…have a nice day :)

  • Sean Mesler

    It’s cool. I don’t really take offense about stuff like this. I think you have just have different experiences than I have with Call of Duty.

  • Mike Jones

    well i played cod2&4 to the tune of about 30 days of gameplay a piece…just since that point i have disagreed with about every decision activision has made as far as changes to things they’ve added,the ever shrinking levels and copious amounts of head glitching spots,etc…to the point where my game time on it got less and less until finally mw3 where after about 4-5 hours in,i got a specialist pp90 moab,thought to myself why would they ever make the game this incredibly easy,took it to gamestop and haven’t thought about touching again