Modern Warfare 2 Navigates A Sea Of Second-Guessers

Incensed politicians, angry fans, boycotting retailers: What might be the biggest video game launch in history has more than its share of controversy.

But in the eye of the contentious hurricane that swirls around the upcoming launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, developer Infinity Ward appears unfazed.

"It's very exciting," said Infinity Ward's Robert Bowling, who's title changed from community manager to "creative strategist" as the buzz began to swell for Modern Warfare 2. "I'm fully expecting it to do very well. I'm expecting good things."

And he should be. Set in modern times, the first-person shooter has already broken the record for most pre-orders, according to national retailer GameStop.

And industry analyst Anita Frazier says there's a very good chance it will break Halo 3's record for 3.3 million copies sold at launch.

"The previous best-selling Call of Duty games (across all platforms) in its launch month is a tie between (Modern Warfare) and COD World at War with 2.3 million units including those generated by PC sales at retail," said Frazier, who tracks sales numbers for the NPD Group. "For the title to exceed Halo 3 first month sales, COD: MW2 would have to best its previous best launches by 43 per cent."

"That's a big number to increase, but is it possible? Yes, with what is being reported about pre-sells and the general level of buzz that this game is generating, it's possible. There are also a number of high-interest special edition SKU's launching for this game as well."

But all of that buzz, and those millions of pre-orders, means a lot of people are paying very close attention to what developer Infinity Ward is doing this time around with the game.

Fans have been carefully tracking every bit of information dropped about the game, from the night-vision goggles that will be included with some special editions of the title, to plot twists and the way the game will be handled on different platforms.

"We have come to a realisation with this game that anything that can leak will leak," Bowling said. "When our night vision glasses went into production, the guys making them figured out what they were for and put them on and took pictures of them."

The leaks have reached such a fevered pitch that Bowling recently advised gamers to avoid the internet altogether if they wanted to have a pristine experience playing through the game.

Soon after, word and video hit of a level in the game that seems to involve player-controlled terrorism. Despite the game being weeks from release, Australian politicians were up in arms about the notion and eventually publisher Activision released a statement defending the game and saying players will have the option to skip it.

But that short lived controversy was nothing compared to the ire raised by the developer's approach to the PC version of the game. When news hit that PC gamers would have less control over the way they play online it ignited a firestorm of seething disappointment, online petitions and, in at least one case, a cash donation to a competing video game.

Bowling and the company defend the decisions made to make the PC game more accessible.

"We have protected what our veteran gamers love about the game, but are also catering to different play styles and rewarding those different play styles," Bowling said. "Accessibility was a major focus for Modern Warfare 2."

And Bowling denies that Infinity Ward and Activision are more focused on making the console versions of the game than a solid PC version.

"We make a fantastic PC game," he said. "Modern Warfare 2 is our most feature-rich PC game yet."

When asked if the next Modern Warfare would be on the PC, Bowling said he doesn't even know yet what Infinity Ward's next game will be.

Bowling believes that the outcry against Infinity Ward's design decisions by some PC gamers is a case of a loud minority, and not the sentiments of the majority.

"We have 14 million players on Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare," he said. "The hardcore gamers make up a smaller core of that, and PC gamers are the smallest group of that core.

"It is a very vocal community and they are all online."

The outcry is perhaps also the offshoot of a game developer being so engaged with their community.

"Our community gets so invested in our games," Bowling said. "Therefore they feel, and rightfully so, that we should justify every design decision to them. I think that it's very important to understand that you should be very involved in your community and work with them, but not to be held prisoner to their demands.

"We know our game very well. Some of the stuff you have to put in there and have faith in your design. Some things don't sound good out of context. You don't see the beauty of them until you experience them for yourselves."

"It's a very fine line."

Well Played is a weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Feel free to join in the discussion.


Comments

    There's no point in even complaining anymore.

      Your absolutely right, Even though the loss of dedicated servers will definitely hinder the replayability of the game but there is nothing we can or could have done.

      It is a great game, always will... But it just isn't as good as it should be, but then again... we may never know if they will throw in the dedicated server support.

    "The outcry is perhaps also the offshoot of a game developer being so engaged with their community."

    Don't be forgetting the fact that this was not mentioned until a bit less then a month before the launch. Something this important should have been communicated at least 2 or 3 months beforehand or (even more so) when dedicated servers were being pre-ordered for the game.

    There is only one way to make them understand just dont obtain a copy at all.

    And for those who have paid up for dedicated servers no longer required and cannot get their cash back?? Class action law-suit.

    When they bleed money they will listen!!!!
    He who has the gold makes the rules.

    not to mention the fact they are still to reveal any sort of postitive spin on there service

    i mean all the negatives they keep saying i mean the communitys already pissed your just adding fuel to the fire

    "And Bowling denies that Infinity Ward and Activision are more focused on making the console versions of the game than a solid PC version."

    This made me laugh. They're clearly trying to push PC gamers to play consoles since they're apparently losing so much money through PC piracy. Why else would they offer the prestige edition to consoles only? And they've changed dedicated servers to a matchmaking system just like other console FPS games have.

    Pissing off PC gamers isn't going to make them switch to consoles, if anything it's just going to make them feel justified in getting a pirated copy of the game.

    “We have protected what our veteran gamers love about the game, but are also catering to different play styles and rewarding those different play styles,” Bowling said. “Accessibility was a major focus for Modern Warfare 2.”

    Veteran gamers loved dedicated servers, so I guess they're protected, amirite? "Accessibility was a major focus" just comes across as saying "We're greedy, so we're willing to sacrifice our true fans for the sake of catering to the masses"

    And like Mupps said, it would be interesting to see how many pre-orders the game would've got if they had announced the match-making system earlier. Someone in the marketing department deserves a promotion.

    Well there's my rant for the day.

    i just canceled my pre-order today

    I still think PC players make up a fairly large percentage of Call of Duty games.

    To think if next to most decide against buying it (legally anyway), it could jeopardize their outcome in sales. But no doubt beat Halo 3.

    I guess the thing to look at is... will it beat Halo 3's day sales. Most likely week, but day. Halo is a franchise that people line up at midnight to get. They take the day off work or school - like Star Wars.

    Is MW2 that sort of game. I look at Halo as a Campaign AND Multiplayer game cause i enjoy single player. COD4 had a wicked campaign - but i really only own it for the multiplayer much like MW2 will be (on 360 =P)

    Will people hold off for the second day or later during the week cause only multiplayer. Either way, i'm their Day 1. I'm just worried it will backfire on them - much to their own fault.

    The most disturbing thing about this news is he is 100% correct, this game will sell out in bucketloads.

    Every year, each COD and Guitar hero game becomes more and more rushed, and it sells better.

    Activision are very steadily pushing us towards another video game crash

      Last i heard, Guitar Hero World Tour under-performed compared to Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.

      And then Guitar Hero 5 has done even worse than World Tour.

        yeah 3 had the advantage of bring the first made specifically for this generation and the last 2 havent had the best set lists(mainly cos theve used the ones worth using and having to balance the fours instruments leaves you with some really weak songs just to get some good vocal ones in there)

    ...and that the non-dedicated matches will be maxed at 9 vs 9 games.

    "...you should be very involved in your community and work with them, but not to be held prisoner to their demands."

    Because we've got more pre-orders than we have disgruntled fans. We could give you one level and 3 guns and still make a f***load of cash.

    So, what do we do if IW decide to take down iwnet? Are we just fucked for online? Also, 9v9 sucks cause I love playing massive player servers on stuff like CSS.

      Sorry man, haven't you heard? The game isn't balanced for that.

      /sarcasm

    wtf y would anyone cancel there pre orders just coz no dedicated servers? the main part of the game is the story as well as online but ur just stupid enough to miss out on a really great game.

      For some people, online is the only thing that matters to them. And to others, it's single player only. In any case, to me, it's not necessarily about the multiplayer/singleplayer, it's about IW's attitude towards all this. Sometimes, the best thing to them, isn't the best thing for everyone else.

    "Bowling believes that the outcry against Infinity Ward’s design decisions by some PC gamers is a case of a loud minority, and not the sentiments of the majority."

    Ahhh? I've not heard a single person whos not pretty much blown up about that. I help run one PC game site and an a member of another and of all the opinions voiced not one has even been NEUTRAL about it.

    I assume he knows hes full of shit, that kind of arrogance is hopefully rare.

    “The hardcore gamers make up a smaller core of that, and PC gamers are the smallest group of that core."

    You're not a hardcore gamer unless you OWN and PLAY games on the PC.

    They lost 2 sales from me (PC & PS3) and I know of another 6 they won't be getting from various friends of mine.

    What a bunch of bull. With the hype around this title, I might have been interested in buying a copy, but only on the PC. Failing to include crucial features to appeal to the PC market isn't any way to appeal to "accessibility". I'm sure as hell never going to waste money on a game inferior to its predecessor.

    And this isn't just about dedicated servers. 9vs9? That could've been decent numbers... In 1996.

    I wonder if they'll try to ban this here cus of the terrorism stuff.

    I'd love it if they tried. Gamers would get so angry maybe something would happen about the r18 thing

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