The Call Of Duty People Could Have Levelled With Fans Last Year

Imagine, for a moment, that Activision announced this year's Call of Duty last year, back when they were also announcing last year's, too. Madness, you might think, but is it any less mad than what actually happened?

Nearly a year ago, Activision announced that its Call of Duty for 2016 would be a sci-fi shooter called Infinite Warfare. This went over poorly. The prospect of spaceship battles and zero-G combat annoyed many series fans. They fumed that Call of Duty and its increasingly future-leaning annual releases had abandoned its roots. Infinite Warfare's trailer became one of the most down-voted YouTube videos of all time.

As fan venom for Infinite Warfare intensified, Activision spun. Company president Eric Hirshberg told investors that Call of Duty trailers had been bashed before and still led to success. This could happen again.

Three million down-votes and a game doomed to struggle.

For six months, however, fan anger continued. Some people warmed to the game. Subsequent trailers and demos showed some promise. Infinite Warfare eventually got decent reviews, though by then many shooter fans had given up on the game. Some surely gravitated to rival series Battlefield, which had slipped back to World War I.

What no one at Activision mentioned publicly at all in 2016 was a fact that many of them knew and that would likely have pleased many of those angry fans: Call of Duty was indeed going back to its origins with a World War II entry in 2017. The space game of 2016 was a detour from which they'd soon return.

We can all guess why Activision didn't just level with all those people hating on the game: Didn't want to get ahead of themselves; didn't want to confuse things further, since 2016 was already getting a bonus Call of Duty in the form of a remaster of 2007's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare; didn't want to dare risk giving people more justification to skip the game and wait for next year's.

Do people really think this way? Are you a slave to habit who will skip this year's Call of Duty, Madden or Mario if the people publishing them tell you something about the version coming out next year?

It's a different industry, but over in the world of movies, they don't do this. Disney doesn't worry that their announcements about a new Avengers movie will keep you from seeing the next Guardians of the Galaxy. Nor do they fear you'll skip Star Wars Episode VIII if they start revealing details of the Han Solo movie that will follow.

In games, though, game publishers seldom let the reality of video game production get in the way of a game's marketing cycle. They would seemingly sooner let one development team's game get smashed prematurely by an unhappy public than throw an appeasing bone to upset fans and tell them something about the game coming a year after. Maybe these game publishers sometimes have good reason. Maybe the plans for next year's game aren't locked in, but with multi-year productions like Call of Duty, they usually are. The series' new World War II game was in development long before Infinite Warfare's trailer had its first downvote. Sledgehammer, the developer of Call of Duty: WWII, admitted as much on a stream yesterday, saying that they have been working quietly on this game for two and a half years.

This is how it usually works, though. If you're a Metroid fan unhappy with the next Metroid, Nintendo just won't tell you what else might be next for that series. Do they not know? Or do they simply worry it will hurt the sales of the next release? If you're an Assassin's Creed fan who isn't digging the location of this year's game, Ubisoft isn't going to tell you where next year's is (and they might defend this practice by pointing out that sometimes plans change). You are expected to be excited about the next game and not think about what's beyond.

What we have with Call of Duty, though is a concrete example of where telling the public about the next game might have helped. Infinite Warfare got mauled by unhappy fans for months, while the publisher held off on telling those fans the very thing that might have made them happy, all in service, it seems, to the idea that you announce one big Call of Duty at a time. Maybe the new game gets announced with a teaser. Or with a trailer and livestream. Or maybe it even just leaks through the press. But you just don't announce two new games at the same time. No. Can't imagine that.

The new Call of Duty trailer, with more likes in one day than last year's CoD trailer got in a year.


    Banal and confusing headline aside, Stephen's on to something but this site wouldn't be around if it wasn't for annualised instalments of titles.

    I don't care all that much for Call of Duty, never have, but games like it are staples of an industry that is truly ruled and run by big publishers, not platform holders.

    Nintendo doesn't make Metroid games because Metroid games weren't bought by the people who cried en masse they wanted Metroid games.

    Fire Emblem fans are a silent majority, they buy the games so Nintendo keeps making them, yet you never hear from these people unless you are actively seeking them out.

    COD serves both the rah rah internet commenter fan and the fan who only buys one game each generation and doesn't even come near sites like this. Acti's king of the hill and knows how to serve both.

      Strange point about the Metroid/ Fire Emblem thing.
      Do you have any evidence for that? Sales ect?

      I think the bigger factor is that Fire Emblem games can be pumped out in a 12 month window using an existing engine, where a new 3D Metroid is a big team and a 4-5 development cycle. It’s much easier for Nintendo to release something that’s comparatively mindless (Mario Kart) than it is to dedicate resources to something like Zelda: BOTW that requires a ridiculously long development cycle.

      I’m sure if they could release a Metroid Prime or a Fire Emblem game every two years for the same cost you’d be getting a lot more Metroid and a lot less Fire Emblem.

        You're embarrassing yourself by needlessly making up time frames in which a video game can be developed, so I wouldn't presume to agree or disagree with making hard comparisons about two games I picked out of thin air.

        Mario Kart is mindless, is it? Of course it is, it's not a real racing game like Smash isn't a real fighting game and Splatoon isn't a real shooter. Oh how I forget these things.

          Man you're abrasive. Chill out.

          Common sense and history indicates how difficult and long a development cycle will be. Have a look at OOT and then Majoras Mask compared to the rest of the major Zelda releases. Reusing assets and game play mechanics as they do with the Fire Emblem games makes it much faster, this is evidenced by duel releases and short turn around on the sequels.

          A new Metroid would need to be made nearly from scratch. It's be a massive task designing enemies, levels, puzzles, ect from scratch.

          Mario Kart is Mario Kart. It's still a lot of effort but it doesn't need to be finely balanced, the character designs already exist, 90% of the weapon design is done. The maps don't need to be consistent and fit within a broader theme (meaning artists can work on them concurrently without directorial oversight). There's a reason Zelda takes 5 years from the point of announcement and Mario Kart takes a year.

          You'll notice that I didn't mention Splatoon or Smash Bros at all, because they fall somewhere in the middle. Particularly as they have fairly recent sequels. They do need a LOT of thought though to ensure game play is balanced and fun.

            I don't accept using 'common sense' and history as a gauge here.

            You do realise 'Nintendo' doesn't make all its name-branded games, it has certain in-house divisions that operate autonomously either because that's their role (ie sports games with Mario and Bowser and friends) or they are in actual fact standalone companies themselves incorporated under a larger banner (like Smash).

            Metroid Prime, etc was done by an American developer, for goodness' sake. A small one, at that.

            Twilight Princess HD was developed here in Australia by Tantalus - not exactly Bioware I'd imagine. We can't sit here and say "it should look like good, or take this long to make" because we sure as hell don't know.

            My original point, lost somewhere along the line here, was that a game's announcement is a very strategic and carefully-planned event in its overall lifespan - Bethesda all of a sudden has a spot at E3 doing live conferences, I can't imagine Stephen/Kotaku/other game sites berating game companies for leaving out details of un-announced stuff from their E3 briefings. That's because we all accept that E3 itself is one big advertisement, that covers a certain amount of time going forward.

            There's exceptions to this rule like Last Guardian, FF7 Remake, the Shenmue Kickstarter that's not even talked about anymore.

    I don’t play COD, but I’d imagine the problem is the time investment that’s associated with these kinds of shooters today. That’s the difference between this and the film industry, or even other kinds of game where the single-player experience is actually interesting.

    If you’re not going to take anything meaningful from the single player experience, and you know full well you’ll be dropping the multiplayer account and moving onto something more enticing no more than 12 months later- then there’s a good chance you’ll skip it and stick with the previous years game.

    I mean I enjoyed Titanfall (a lot actually), but I haven’t bought the sequel because BF1 is stealing all my multiplayer shooter time. It’s not that they aren’t different and worthy experiences, I just don’t want to be running two half-assed shooter accounts at time. I’ll find one and I’ll commit to it- and if I know another one I’ll be committing to isn’t far away I’m not going to start something half-assed in the interim.

    The thing that turned me off Infinite Warfare after buying every title since Modern Warfare was the fact that I would have to pay extra just to get the one title I was most looking forward to (remastered), because that's always been my favorite and I'd like to have the upgraded graphics and actually have people online etc, but they just screwed people around.

    They could have simply had the one standard price for both games and people would have bought it like hotcakes. I know I would have.

      But then now with the changes they made to MW Remastered, in True COD fashion, if you had known it'd be like that. You wouldn't buy it anyway. The point is, you would have bought it and been annoyed. Now annoyed and not bought it.

    Releasing trailers for a game over a year away doesn't seem to happen a lot for a fairly good reason in my eyes: plans change. There are delays, production ruts, changing hardware, poor economic conditions, changing staff, etc. While this holds true for all media, I can't think of many instances where a film is well into production and just gets completely binned rather than released. Video game producers seem to be more willing to pull the plug and ditch a struggling project rather than trying to get some money.

    Annualised games like CoD aren't the same as annualised movies like the next Marvel film. There is no cohesive narrative or thread between any of the CoD games so buyers don't lose anything from skipping a game or two. Even Assassin's Creed has the most threadbare of links between their sequels so you wouldn't miss much if you didn't play a particular installment. Compare that to Marvel where each movie places a new brick in the universe which connects to everything else. Cameos and references are there to show that there is continuity between everything from Thor to Guardians to Dr Strange. Marvel actually pays dividends to those who invest and see everything that they offer with the nods and winks to the audience. CoD, BF, and the other annualised games have barely any of that.

    Why would they announce a new game when they are still trying to sell the current one. It would financially stupid because it would cannabilise their current sales.

      It was financially stupid to not to go back to WW2 when the masses were asking for it. Infinite Warfare's sales suffered because of the future setting but maybe people would've hated it less if they knew WW2 was coming back eventually? Maybe enough that it would offset the cannibalisation of sales?

    I think announcing the 2017 game with the 2016 one could have been seen as a lack of faith in the 2016 one?

    Also the Marvel movies are all part of a 'story' so it almost makes sense to announce them years ahead of schedule as some people want to know how long they have to wait!

    I usually buy videogames based on price and reviews, it doesn't matter what's coming next year, if this year's one is awesome I'll buy it and if it gets slammed I won't!

      The marvel stuff is a cynical money making machine with a barely cohesive over-arching story where the producers just fill in the blanks with whatever trite bullshit they came up with while waiting for coffee. And people lap it up.

    Are you mad...

    No way developers would let the publisher promote another game before their game. It would be in their contracts.

    Even apple would simultaneously show off the iPhone 7 and 8 at the same time. That's just bad business.

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