What does it mean for a game to be mainstream? From an economic standpoint a game is considered mainstream when the general population buys the game in addition to the core gaming audience. Some other mainstream franchises that most will be familiar with include Madden, Gran Turismo, and, everyone’s favorite plumber (and the reason Nintendo can sell 80 million consoles), Mario. However, Grand Theft Auto, while certainly a mainstream franchise, does not come out as often as other annualized games owing to the fact that it’s Rockstar’s flagship title, and one which they like to take their time with.
In an interview with Industry Gamers, Wedbush Securities analyst and video game market guru, Michael Pachter has stated that he believes Call of Duty is now the biggest mainstream franchise and has clinched the top spot from Rockstar’s million dollar baby. Oh really?
The reasons for this should be fairly obvious to everyone – too obvious – but Pachter spells it out. He says that the main reason for Call of Duty‘s meteoric rise in the mainstream is primarily due to how Activision has annualized the franchise. It’s no secret that every year sees a new Call of Duty game, and if it’s not yearly the franchise is certainly on a cycle that does not exceed 18 months. In fact, Activision already has Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 booked for released on November 8th for all platforms. Meanwhile, Rockstar’s GTA series has a game come out every five years.
To put solid numbers to this, Pachter estimates that Call of Duty is currently capable of selling 20 million units every year. By contrast, GTA sells about 25 million units every five years. You do the math on this, and you can see that in the time it takes Rockstar to ship 25 million units for one game, Activision has already sold 100 million units for five games cumulatively. For now at least Activision is the clear winner in the video game ‘arms race’.
Of course, Pachter also mentions that the Call of Duty franchise cannot sustain this annualized pace forever before it begins to suffer from, as he calls it, “‘fatigue.” Fatigue in this case would more than likely mean that the production of each game outstrips the developer’s ability to innovate the series. Remember how boring it was to play first person shooter games in the days when all they did was rehash World War 2? Imagine those days back again if Call of Duty continues at its pace.
While we may love what Call of Duty is doing and the innovations it brings (including the new Elite program), the franchise has already begun to spawn an immeasurable number of imitators. Some of them seem interesting like the recently released Hard Reset, but most turn out like the abyssmal Bodycount or the mediocre Medal of Honor, because publishers are eager to unseat Activision’s throne as the king of mainstream.
Unfortunately for us as core gamers, we may experience ‘fatigue’ from the series long before anything is done to innovate it as Pachter adds that it maybe as long as 8 years before it begins to affect the mainstream audiences. Let’s hope that the mainstream becomes a bit more discerning in terms of their gaming tastes, because we all know Activision will continue to sell the same tripe to us if we continue to pay for it.
So when can we expect GTA V? The next installment of GTA is speculated as a scheduled release for sometime next year, but neither Take-Two Interactive or Rockstar Games has made any official announcements at this time regarding the title. Meanwhile, the next entry into Activision’s beloved franchise, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is scheduled for release on November 8th for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
Source: IndustryGamers, VGChartz