World War II
For the first half of the aughts, World War II games were the menacing Panzer tank in a publisher’s army, the tip of the spear that rolled out onto the market at a relentless rate, more often than not guaranteeing a sales victory. Today, however, they’ve been reduced to a flimsy German motorcycle sidecar – and Indiana Jones isn’t driving.
It was a confluence of oversaturation calamities that conspired against World War II’s gaming dominance. Gamers grew tired of storming the beaches of Normandy in a developer’s Saving Private Ryan du jour; the European theater, picturesque though it was, ran dry of fertile battlegrounds, and the rising tide of moral ambiguity (see: moral clarity) saw Hitler, Hirohito, and even Mussolini turn into archenemy outcasts.
Once Call of Duty – after years as gaming’s standard bearer for the Second World War – finally discovered the magic formula that was Modern Warfare, there was no going back. Call of Duty: World at War was a tantalizing glimpse into what could have been – a World War II revival in the Pacific theater – but with developer Treyarch now fixated on the future in Black Ops II, their locus at D-Day +30,000 more or less epitomizes the genre as a whole.