The confirmation this week from Treyarch that Black Ops 3 is happening is sure to cause mixed feelings among gamers. Some will be elated for the next chapter in the Black Ops series. While others may feel Activision and its trio of Call of Duty developers are getting lazy by falling back on what’s already known in the series rather than striking out with something new.
Sure, Advanced Warfare was meant to be a new take on Call of Duty, but did it really turn out that way? Players could now double jump thanks to their nifty new exo suits, and Kevin Spacey did a fine job playing the bad guy, but was it really that different? Not so much. In fact, Call of Duty games have seen very little change since the first Modern Warfare, which was released in 2007 – almost a decade ago.
The lack of true diversity is likely a big reason the franchise has been struggling over the past few years; developers can only rehash the same gameplay so many times before gamers move on to other games. It seems even Activision’s attempt to lengthen the build time for developers and shake things up by adding a third developer, Sledgehammer Games, has failed to turn around the continuing sales decline.
So what should Activision and its partners do? How can they save a potentially sinking ship? One idea is already in effect: make Call of Duty a serious eSports attraction. Just this last week a group of Advanced Warfare players won $400,000 when they finished first in a Call of Duty competition. That big of a reward shows there is a great deal of interest in the franchise maintaining its role in eSports.
However, despite the growing popularity of Call of Duty competitions, the franchise still seems to be struggling. It may be time for Activision to take a chance and try something completely new. And now that they have three developers working on Call of Duty games, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for one of them to attempt something completely out of the box.
Doing so would definitely be a risk for Activision, as they would have to step away from a formula that has worked for almost a decade. But doing so now while sales are still good, despite sharp declines with recent releases, may be the right move for the publisher. If trying something new doesn’t pay off, they still have two more Call of Duty games in development to help pick them back up.
So what could they do differently? They tried something new just two years ago when Infinity Ward broke away from the Modern Warfare IP and created Call of Duty: Ghosts. But it can easily be argued that Ghosts wasn’t really something new. Sure, it had a new storyline, but it was really just Modern Warfare 4 with a different name. And sales showed that it obviously wasn’t new enough to garner the kinds of sales seen by Modern Warfare 3 or Black Ops 2.
Here’s an idea: Activision is well known for providing players with campaign, multiplayer, and co-op experiences in Call of Duty, but they’re always separate. Why not find a way to cross over some of these experiences? For instance, rather than having just a straight multiplayer, why not shake things up by having game modes where zombies are integrated into the multiplayer modes? Players would be forced to not only fight each other, but also hold off waves of undead. There could even be ways to use the zombies to fight against enemies on behalf of a team.
Or what about crossing over the storylines from the different developers? The Black Ops universe could collide with Advanced Warfare, combining the strengths of both uber franchises in ways that are fresh and new.
In the end, Activision will likely choose to stick with the tried and true strategy of delivering similar Call of Duty games every year, and gamers will likely continue to buy them in droves. We’ll be interested to see if franchise sales continue to decline and how that affects the decisions and vision of the publisher and developers.
What do you think about the current state of Call of Duty? Are you excited to see another Black Ops, or would you rather see Activision try something new and out-of-the-box? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.