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End of Duty: Is Call of Duty on a decline?

by Zaid Kriel (Zaid)  Posted Wednesday, December 18, 2013 7:48:00 AM

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Call of Duty has been the de facto video game experience of the last console generation, with each new yearly release improving on the performance of the one before. That annual reportage of the series recording breaking sales has become a tradition in and of itself. "Call of Duty X sets new sales record!" "Call of Duty Z outperforms Call of Duty X!" "Call of Duty Y makes world's fastest $1 billion." But now with Call of Duty: Ghosts, could the series dominant reign finally be coming to an end?

For the first time in a long time, a new Call of Duty game is doing worse in terms of sales compared to an old Call of Duty game. Which isn't necessarily a sign of impending doom. After all, it would have been unrealistic to expect the series to continually outpace itself. In fact, the franchise's publisher was expecting an initial decline, pointing the finger at the release of the Xbox One and PlayStation. But the expectation was that, once the next-gen consoles were out in the wild, the sales dip would have self-corrected. That hasn't been the case.

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But even if it had, it would have still been unreasonable to think that recordbreaking sales would continue forever. With that said, however, this sales gap is mighty worrying to Activision, not because it is happening, but more because of how large it is. According to market-analysis firm Cowen & Company, Call of Duty sales are down 19% compared to this time last year. That's a significant decrease, made worse by the fact that the game came out two weeks earlier in November than Black Ops II did. In other words, even with a two week head start, Ghosts is doing a fifth less business than Black Ops II did.

But it may even be worse than that. “Upon further reflection, we think the numbers are a bit more troubling than they first appeared,” wrote Cowen analyst Doug Creutz in a note to investors. “While the year-over-year gap is only 19 percent thus far, that includes two extra weeks of sales for the 360 and PS3 versions of Black Ops II. Against 2011′s [Modern Warfare 3], where the difference is only one week, the title is down 32 percent life-to-date.”

I'm no analyst, but it sounds to me like what the man is saying, is that Call of Duty: Ghost's lost a third of the franchise's business.

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Despite Activision's insistence that it's the console transition that's to blame for the bad reception, if we're honest with ourselves, the reason is much simpler than that. Call of Duty: Ghosts is just not a very good game.Even among it's most positive reviews, Call of Duty: Ghosts is considered the weakest game in the franchise, with stalwart series supporter, former Destructoid reviews editor Jim Sterling saying it's "as Call of Duty as Call of Duty gets", referring to the accusation of rehashing the series has unfairly been saddled with.

That's the real problem right there. With Call of Duty: Ghosts, that is no longer an unfair accusation. With this latest game, the series really has just become more of the same. Again and again and again. There's nothing new to do with series and nowhere new to go. And the gamers have picked up on that.

Where Black Ops II made a genuine effort to innovate - the branching story structure, almost sci-fi future setting, not to mention its competitive multiplayer features - Ghosts is an incredibly lazy addition. The game is creatively bankrupt, making exactly no effort to do something new. It's single player campaign is as checkpoint charlie as it's comes and it's multiplayer is a step back from Black Ops II.

It's that realisation among the fanbase that's seen this massive drop in sales. Not to mention the anticipation of true next-gen shooters to come, in the form of Respawn's Titanfall and Bungies Destiny. The Modern Warfare-era Call of Duty's are now in the same place as the WWII-era Call of Duty's were a generation ago; at the saturation point. Gamer's have played too many of these games and we're in the mood for a change and Call of Duty: Ghosts wasn't it.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd


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