So, the big story today was Kotaku getting the scoop on what Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is probably going to be like. Kudos to them, by the way – true leaks like that (at least, I hope it’s real and not a planned stunt or anything) are rare in this industry, what with the amount of control companies exert. Say what you want about the type of stuff they usually post, Kotaku do get some good stuff every now and then.
The topic of Call of Duty has been coming up a lot recently amongst my fellow writer-friends, especially in relation to EA and how their hope to beat the rival franchise is now becoming embarrassingly desperate and obvious. I greatly prefer the Battlefield franchise over the Call of Duty one, but I fear that EA might be putting too much pressure on DICE. They’ve certainly been talking a fair bit about beating their rivals recently.
Thing is (and I loath to admit it), but I’m with Michael Pachter on this one. I know, he may talk too much sometimes, but he IS a trained analyst at the end of the day – he’s bound to say something worth listening too sooner or later. Personally, I’m of the opinion that you can make a substantially better game than Call of Duty, even the best game ever, and still not out-sell that behemoth, and I’m unsure as to whether EA really realise this.
Call of Duty has gone beyond being a mere game now – it’s a brand, it’s a phenomenon, and it continues to do well because gamers are stupid and don’t know any better. No, that’s an exaggeration – I think that Modern Warfare created its own ‘sect’ of gamers who ONLY play Call of Duty, maybe some related games, but who aren’t ‘true’ gamers (A bit pretentious I know, but I use that term loosely: I don’t really want to get into that particular debate right now). Activision, love em or hate them, have marketed this franchise extremely well, and EA is going to have to take that on board when looking to beat COD, because no one else is going to help them.
Us press guys and the community, we could sing about Battlefield 3 till the cows come home, we could give it 10/10, but I somehow doubt the people we speak to represent the majority of Activision’s market share. They may not even care about reviews or browse the internet like the more dedicated gaming communities. Only EA and their marketing team can break through to that lot.
(On a side note, Nintendo are another good example about how, depending on the market, it really doesn’t matter what the hell we say. Just look at all the Wii shovel-crap-ware they’ve been pedalling these past few years. Some of that has gone on to sell pretty well considering what it is, regardless of what we say about it.)
I’m reminded of a story Simon Miller – a journalist from Imagine Publishing who’s a really cool guy and does a lot of the events for Imagine – told me last time I saw him. He was saying how, just as he was thinking that maybe Call of Duty had had its time, and was going to start getting stale, a friend of his went up to him one day recently and asked, “Hey, have you heard about this Call of Duty Multiplayer? I hear it’s supposed to be amazing.”
That was it, he said to me. If people are still only just now discovering Call of Duty, that brand is never going to die. I hope the industry can learn that, as long as the game is good and it sells well, that it’s not the worst thing in the world to always come second.
Enjoy your weekend.