Are Declining COD Sales a Bad Sign?
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Turns out, November was terrible month for sales not just for the PSVR, but for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare too. According to NPD sell-through data sourced by two Wall Street analysts, sales for the game's physical copies are down an entire 50% from last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops III. It's not all doom and gloom for the franchise; Activision still made boatloads of money on Infinite Warfare. But it stands to reason that perhaps gamers are starting to question the quality of the Call of Duty series. Is the series finally becoming stale after all these years?

This isn't a new argument, but with Overwatch and Battlefield 1 for comparison, it needs to be said again. The Call of Duty games have lost their luster. Activision has struggled to keep the series fresh and it's been obvious since Ghosts. Ever increasing the violence of each story and its graphics has helped a little, to be sure. But that got old too. Tearing the player's character apart, literally, isn't the best way to win anyone's heart. It was no less effective, but if I wanted unnecessary violence I'd boot up a Mortal Kombat game. Indeed, in the end even I can get used to it to the point where it no longer carries meaning. Overwatch has no blood spill at all, but kill shots are no less impressive. Battlefield 1 has one of the most moving war stories I've seen since Modern Warfare 2, and not one drop of blood is shown. Even when you're taking someone down with a shovel.

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Then came Advanced Warfare, and Activision put the Hollywood in gaming. Suddenly we have stars like Kevin Spacey, Ron Perlman, Kiefer Sutherland, and Kit Harington. The games never needed such star power, and it honestly doesn't help improve the quality by much. Great actors help, yes, but the script, story, and animation need to be there to back them up. Line delivery and thirty-two different grunts are important to a game's immersion, but when your character's “best friend” dies and you as the player couldn't care less, it doesn't matter anymore.

Infinite Warfare tried exactly what Black Ops 3 did. It took the usual war-torn world and stuck a futuristic gimmick on it, plus more Hollywood actors. In BO3, it was robots and a matrix plotline I've seen a thousand times because I'm also a Star Trek fan. The setting, beyond a slightly updated skin on each level, is much the same as the rest of the games. If BO3 added robots, Infinite Warfare added space. It helped to revamp some of the areas, but mostly the same corridors and open areas filled with waist-high cement blocks remained. And again, as much as I love to see Kit Harington playing the villain, actors do not uphold an entire game.

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I'm not going to say that Call of Duty isn't trying to be creative, but I will say that it's not creative enough. Overwatch showed us what a true FPS multiplayer should be with dynamic and comprehensive maps coupled with asymmetrical characters and powers. You just don't get that in Call of Duty. Instead, you get corridors and cramped “open spaces” my apartment could fit into. It gets boring when you continually cover, grenade, shoot, move, and repeat. In terms of using famous actors to sell games, it's so obviously an expensive gimmick when compared to the lesser known talents in Battlefield 1 that help support a well-worn but beautifully executed story. Call of Duty needs to admit defeat and evolve into a new series under a different title. No more attempts to reignite the nostalgia of previous games (MW2 Remastered), no more excessive violence (Black Ops 3), no more relying on amazing actors to sell a game. Sales are down for Infinite Warfare, so maybe we're finally waking up to this.

Christine Pugatschew
Christine Pugatschew

Contributing Writer
Date: 12/14/2016

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