The Call Of Duty Question

Let’s face it, nearly all of you will own or are planning to soon own Call Of Duty: Black Ops. The game has been out what…three days? And sources at Activision are saying it has trumped the launch reception and success of Modern Warfare 2. To be honest with you I can’t properly process the number of units this game has sold already, let alone how many it is set to sell in the next year. This franchise is huge, in case you didn’t notice the cultural trend, or still think “gaming” is about cardboard cut-outs and handfuls of dice.Most critics and fans knew Black Ops was going to be a top class game (notice how I didn’t say “Tier 1”? I still love you EA don’t worry) what with all the announcements and trailers released leading up to it, and the long trail of gaming discussion that was running all over the internet. It has overthrown Modern Warfare 2 and now it’s interesting to take a step back and look at the Call Of Duty name.

A lot of folks I know always seem unable to explain why Modern Warfare 2 did so well and took off with a flame. I feel that Black Ops is in debt to the same reasons as MW2 and I will try to outline several points below (deep breath).

After the first Modern Warfare was tossed into the ravenous pits of the gaming market, consumers and critics finally noted a game that was of a very high quality. This set the standard that we now expect as a minimum for a Call Of Duty title.

Then World At War burst out of the doors of Activision with the newfound respect waiting to embrace it from the word go, followed by Modern Warfare 2 the next year. But MW2 did so well partly because fans were expecting WAW to be MW2…if that makes sense. The majority of gamers are happily ignorant of who published or developed what (this might be changing now but more on this subject another time) so when they see “Call Of Duty” that’s the hook, not the tagline. Naturally the way the market flows, when the sequel fans were expecting was finally released, they went nuts for it. The hype wheel has sort of started itself from the sheer hunger for the true successor to MW/COD4.

One of the other core reasons MW2 sold in the way it did was simply word of mouth. If a friend showed interest in purchasing a console and asked you for your thoughts, you would 90% of the time mention this game. Everyone else saw how the fan-base was going wild for it and wanted in on the action, and shortly after it passed around through thousands and thousands of social circles, it became a mainstream topic. Non gamers knew about MW2, newspapers and television series would refer to it whenever video gaming was in a story or a punch line.

Now I realize that the past two paragraphs haven’t said anything about Black Ops, so this is where I think it comes in. MW2 gave the CoD name such branding power, and a planet wide following that anything Activision pooped out with those three words on it would be in the spotlight like gunpowder in a water fight. The marketing team at Activision now had some very secure anchors to put the full weight of the company on and they massaged the game into our homes before it was even out.

But now the game is out and the reviews are pouring in, and the franchise has upped the bar another notch, the notion of a “CoD template” (maybe a plate of cod.? alright then) is very real. The Blacks Ops campaign was awesome, it was suitably cinematic, pleasingly varied, and expertly paced. Multiplayer is hugely addictive, with irresistible competitiveness, and the Zombie mode has been cranked up and remains appropriately thrilling.

Right so the key words here are “suitable” and “appropriate”. Call Of Duty: Black Ops is a triple A title but it plays its cards very closely and safely, only expanding and tweaking on the previous models. My point of discussion is this; will the franchise succumb to franchise fatigue? Will it paint new colours on the same core game but otherwise leave the gameplay as a money making recipe? As Black Ops somewhat represents the polished template that started with CoD 4, will the formula grow tiresome after this?

The next title is due to be set in space, or at least a much more futuristic period than any other CoD game, with Activision registering trademarks under names like “Call Of Duty: Space Warfare” “Future Warfare” and so on, so will they start taking risks once again and try to evolve the franchise…or squeeze the cash from its smoking meat?

Three words take us and the Call Of Duty name in to the future; Maintenance, consistency, and creativity. The order they will be put in and the words around them are to be assembled next year by fans and critics, but for now I will say goodbye and get back to owning/being owned by noobs on Black Ops.

“…the tomahawk…seriously?”

As always share your thoughts over on our super slick fourms…if you can stop playing Black Ops you bloody addict.

And check out our review on the game.