It has been a whirlwind of a year for Call of Duty fans all around the world in 2016. Coming off the release of Black Ops 3, fans were all looking forward to the next Call of Duty title. Until the first leaks, and into the reveal of what was known as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Fans of Call of Duty gave Activision a backlash, and it continued into the World Reveal trailer…
THAT, too was met with controversy and backlash. It went on to become one of the most liked Call of Duty video in history, and the most disliked YouTube videos of all time. Infinite Warfare went so far to becoming the 2nd most disliked video of all time on YouTube, with Justin Bieber’s “Baby ft. Ludacris” in the lead.
But, that’s artificial perception. Here’s why: The likes to dislike ratio is off by 2 or 3 million more. See for yourself…
And that’s not all. There are only 835,957 comments as of this writing. With 37+ Million views to the video alone, don’t you think the 3 Million dislikes could have made some kind of response? It’s fishy, it’s rigged. The only thing that historic amount of dislike has ever done is bring Call of Duty to a new marketplace in YouTube. Justin Bieber wouldn’t be famous today if it wasn’t for the amount of haters he has. That’s all it’s done for Infinite Warfare: Bring Call of Duty into the minds of even more casuals. This is marketing 101 – controversy is good for business.
The problem is, this “controversy” continued into Infinite Warfare’s Beta. Not for the reason you thought, though. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s Legacy Edition bundled Infinite Warfare with Modern Warfare Remastered in a sweet pre-order deal. Activision sold it as $80 a pop, instead of the obligatory $120 price (because, 2 times 60 bucks is 120 dollars.) People took Legacy Edition for granted. Activision even tried to sway people to buy the game during Black Friday, too: They dropped the price of Legacy Edition from $80 to a standard $60. However, that wasn’t enough, because there were people before launch, during launch, and post launch who were telling others not to buy Infinite Warfare. Activision cites sales decline is mainly due to a large amount of naysayers.
“Vote with your wallet,” you say. But, you wanted “boots on ground” gameplay. You could’ve just bought Infinite Warfare’s Legacy Edition, and you could’ve gotten your “boots on ground” fix. It was a good deal. I will go on the limb to say it was a friggin’ steal.
What’s your point? Well, if Modern Warfare Remastered didn’t inspire people to buy Infinite Warfare’s Legacy Edition, NOTHING will. Not even a new “boots on ground” title.
Huh? Let me explain something to you: Infinite Warfare is the SECOND time, that Activision and Infinity Ward both released a new sub-series. In 2013, Call of Duty: Ghosts was released during a new console generation. Ghosts was more or less a test by Infinity Ward to learn the ins & outs of PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Many people returned Call of Duty: Ghosts back to retailers in record numbers because of the glitches, problems, and complaints about the game. To me, I would have understood fans’ frustration at that point.
Well, if you were Activision, what would YOU do? Up the marketing! I don’t know about you, but the Activision marketing team were slacking off to the point of expecting Call of Duty to sell the same exact numbers all over again. It’s their job to increase sales, and reach new audiences. In the investor call on February 9, Activision admits that sales for Infinite Warfare didn’t fare well…
“Activision’s November Release [Infinite Warfare] was a high quality, innovative game that paired with Modern Warfare Remastered offered a tremendous amount of value and gameplay variety. However, sales underperformed our expectations, and it’s clear that for a portion of our audience the space setting just didn’t resonate.”
“While it wasn’t the success we planned, it allows us to protect the core tenants of our culture empowering our talented teams to have the chance to explore new opportunities that they are passionate about.”
Innovation and creativity is important. Infinite Warfare was a good game. It had some innovative player interactions, especially at the end credits. If you stayed far beyond the ending credit, you would have seen silhouettes of soldiers who’s telling their family, friends, and comrades about their life in space. I thought that was well done. Not only did it tell stories of the characters, it also gave players something to do during credits.
As I said before, there were too many naysayers. Many people didn’t give Infinite Warfare a chance. It’s the naysayers’ fault that the sales are down. Infinite Warfare’s competitor, TitanFall 2 was set in the future, too. The difference between the two, though – Infinite Warfare didn’t have that “holy shit!” moment. TitanFall 2 wow’ed players with the Single Player campaign.
Where does Call of Duty go from here?
I honestly don’t know. I do know one thing: Activision is backed into a corner with no room to breathe. They’re now in a position that they really have to please fans. This is not exactly good news. There’s a fine line between giving players what they want, and pleasing players. This means, that the fans are going to drive the direction of Call of Duty – in a way that stifles developer inspiration, imagination, and creativity. The next few years we’re going to either see the growth of Call of Duty or the downfall of Call of Duty.
There was really nothing Activision could’ve done to make Infinite Warfare a bonafide, gangbustering, blockbuster game. For every complaint Infinite Warfare had, Activision and Infinity Ward went to work to rectify.
What are the good news?
Well, during the investor call on February 9, Activision played up some good news. Financially, Activision is enjoying a good year, not necessarily a “breakout year.” There were good news, and there were bad news. While Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare didn’t sell well “as expected,” Call of Duty, overall has been experiencing an increase in online transaction (Stand-Alone DLC’s, Season Passes, Microtransactions, Call of Duty Points which buy Supply Drops, and other In-Game content.) During the call, Activision said that the In-Game content was responsible for $3.9 Billion in revenue. That’s a “b” for Billions, and not “m” for Millions. Billions. That’s counting not just from Call of Duty, but other games such as the hotly successful Overwatch. See for yourself…
As you can see, Call of Duty, overall has been seeing record revenue. Black Ops 3 was responsible for most of the In-Game content revenue. What about Call of Duty 2017? Well, as you can see in the next image…
Call of Duty will go back to the “boots on ground” roots. Activision’s Chief Operating Officer said “In 2017, Activision will take Call of Duty back to its roots, and traditional combat will once again take center stage. This is what our dedicated community of Call of Duty players and Sledgehammer Games, developing this year’s title, are the most excited about.” Following the investor call, Sledgehammer Games announced their excitement for their game in 2017…
We’re honored & excited to bring this year’s @Callofduty to fans everywhere! It’s our biggest achievement as game makers. Much more to come.
— Sledgehammer Games (@SHGames) February 9, 2017
The Sledgehammer Games Co-Founders followed suit with their own excitement for their Call of Duty title in 2017…
— Michael Condrey (@MichaelCondrey) February 9, 2017
Is it official? Can I talk yet? not quite yet, but we listened. We r so psyched about our game & honored to work on such a great franchise.
— Glen Schofield (@GlenSchofield) February 9, 2017
Glen Schofield claims that Sledgehammer Games “listened” to the feedback towards Advanced Warfare, Black Ops 3, and Infinite Warfare…? Some people, including myself wouldn’t mind there being a “Advanced Warfare 2,” ya know.
See, this is the problem, though: Advanced Warfare sold pretty well for a new sub-series. Black Ops 3 sold well beyond expectations, despite the amount of hate that “futuristic” themes have gotten. As I reported before the reveal of BO3:
The story is wiped clean, the plot is wiped clean, the cast of characters has been wiped clean. No returning characters with the exception of a few alternate reality characters. What I’m getting at, is that both games don’t have the momentum to jump off of. For example, the reason why Black Ops 2 was so successful regardless of the fact that it’s in a new generation of Call of Duty tech – is simple: The story arc is continuing. In other words, most of the characters were returning from Black Ops (and World at War). There is a continuance between all three titles, which allows the fanbase to anticipate, and rave about the game.
Right now, Sledgehammer Games has a chance to sell even more copies of their game if they had gone with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare 2. Because there is continuance. There is momentum. But if Activision goes with a completely new sub-series, they’re going to have to hustle to make sure Call of Duty’s 2017 title succeeds.
Activision & Studios’ Challenges for the years to come:
Activision has been challenged since 2011 with the Call of Duty brand. Modern Warfare 3 was released to a record-breaking sales. It was facing negative feedback in some areas of the fanbase, and it was also facing a lawsuit from another game company over the rights to use a logo. Black Ops 2 was released to another record-breaking sales. It was also facing negativity from fans, and it was also facing a lawsuit from a real person – Manuel Noriega. Activision and like-minded third party publishers that release First Person Shooters were also facing challenges due to using real-life weapons. I do remember there was a lawsuit against a game company like Activision over the use of a Gun Manufacturer’s weapon in-game – I currently can’t find the story, but I do remember it. The point is forthcoming – Activision and its studios didn’t want to go back to the past because of these challenges. The aforementioned stories are why Call of Duty has been going into the future, rather than the past.
Also, another thing to keep in mind: Activision is looking to get into the film business. They are currently planning a Call of Duty film universe. This isn’t even far fetched, either. Marvel, DC comics both have been successful at launching comic books translated into films. Resident Evil has been successfully been transferred into films. Hell, even previously-released films are transiting into being TV shows, such as Lethal Weapon, “Shooter,” and “Taken.” Power Rangers is even getting a film reboot very soon.
Activision has a tough challenge ahead of them in 2017. They are stuck in a corner where they are forced to please players. Slegehammer Games are tasked with an impossible feat: To bring Call of Duty back to form, selling record amount of units worldwide. They’ve “listened” to players, and naysayers who wouldn’t give Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare a chance. But in reality, there is really noting Activision or Infinity Ward could’ve done to make Call of Duty a blockbuster, smash hit for 2016. There was just too many skeptical naysayers who will go on the limb to say “Don’t buy Infinite Warfare! Vote with your wallets!” And the strategy worked, it spread to many people across Social Media, that it hurt Infinite Warfare’s image. Activision and its studios are forced to satisfy Call of Duty fans, haters, and like-minded consumers with a game that is likeable universally by everyone. Word of mouth is alive, and is as important as ever. Activision has to do everything in their marketing prowess to make sure Call of Duty’s 2017 is a bonafie, blockbuster success, or Activision has to make some tough choices for the years to come.
Call of Duty is made up of 70% to 80% casuals, so in order for Call of Duty’s 2017 title to be a blockbuster hit in every sense of the word, it has to go back to their original Call of Duty roots: Boots on Ground. However, in order to capture the casuals as Call of Duty 4 has done for many titles to come, it has to be a marketing strategy that’s built on word of mouth with a reaction of “Holy S#i^! This game is [insert rest of sentence.]”
Activision also has a tough challenge ahead of them in the next few years. Activision just laid off 5% of their workforce. Activision Publishing, Inc. which is the publisher arm of Activision Blizzard, Inc. was hit with this layoff, Infinity Ward which is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc. was hit with this layoff, and Beenox was also hit by this layoff. It’s not much of a layoff in the grand scheme of things – but it really gives off a question mark to anyone who’s keeping tabs on Activision. Investors, Consumers, Players, Fans, whomever. It also leaves questions as to what precedent this sets for the future of Call of Duty, which does not just apply to Call of Duty 2017, it applies to any Call of Duty title coming after Sledgehammer Games’ 2017 title.