When Activision has a successful franchise they will exploit it. Their CEO, Bobby Kotick, has even been quoted in the past as saying that Activision is not interested in franchises that “don’t have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform.”
Exploit is exactly what Activision did with the Guitar Hero series. In the last two years they released 14 different Guitar Hero games. Activision clearly failed to see that consumers were getting tired of the music genre formula, and had to cancel the franchise due to lack of sales. Activision bought a property, exploited it for all the money they could, and then they threw away the dead horse once it they couldn’t beat it anymore. Could the next fall from grace happen to Call of Duty?
While the CoD series hasn’t been exploited in the same way that Guitar Hero was, with numerous different games being released every year, it still has seen six games this console generation. Compare that to a franchise like Final Fantasy, which is on entry thirteen, but has been going since the NES days. Those thirteen games have spanned five console generations. At the end of this year it is expected that we will see Modern Warfare 3, which will make it the seventh game in the series to be released this console generation. How many is one too many war-based first person shooters for consumers to buy?
Industry Gamers asked several well-known industry analysts their thoughts on what the demise of Guitar Hero could mean for the current Activision flag-ship, Call of Duty. The general view of the six analysts interviewed was that these two franchises are not comparable, and that the GH failure was not the fault of Activison:
Billy Pidgeon, M2 Research:
“Guitar Hero and other former franchises may appear to be publisher failures, but the truth is that strip-mining franchises is a successful, risk-averse strategy. ATVI made good money on GH. Sequels were produced quickly and cheaply. Covering all platforms gleans higher initial retail orders and a single marketing campaign efficiently advertises on top of the network effect of a hot brand. The hit it and quit it model — carpet-bombing the market with sequels and then slashing the assets — pays off big in the short term, so ATVI’s shareholders are happy. ATVI is learning to execute this strategy with greater efficiency each go-round.”
Michael Pachter, Wedbush Securities:
“I don’t think they are comparable at all. GH is a franchise that people buy once, because the peripherals are great. As it saturated the installed base, the only buyers were people who are new console purchasers, and the “fad” appeared to wear off at the same time. GH was a victim of its own success. CoD, on the other hand, has a vibrant online community that keeps growing. When a new version comes out, the “network effect” kicks in, and many people buy it because their friends have done so. The risk to the franchise is competition, not people tiring of the gameplay.”
Jesse Divnich, EEDAR:
“I still don’t believe Activision did anything wrong with Guitar Hero. The entire music category’s fate was inevitable, and no single publisher is to blame for its demise. It was an entertainment fad. Guitar Hero and Call of Duty are two different franchises with two different demographics.”
Colin Sebastian, Lazard Capital Markets:
“I think music games were a fad – just like fitness games were at one point, and maybe dance games are today. But after years of franchise growth, I wouldn’t put Call of Duty in the same category. This is a franchise that has increased in sales every year for the past 6 or 7 years and has consolidated market share in the process.”
Will the CoD series go down the same path as GH, or will it continue to sell year after year? That is a tough question to answer. The analysts say that CoD and GH are two different types of games, and while that is true, all gamers can get tired of playing the same game with little to no changes each year.
Call of Duty has had the same basic multiplayer structure since Call of Duty 4, which released in 2007. Each game released since CoD4 has made adjustments to the formula, but the core formula is still the same. Is that formula enough to keep millions playing for years to come, or will Activision need to implement some sweeping changes at some point in the near future?
While the analysts are probably right in saying that CoD is more resilient that GH, I still think it could fall just as hard. With EA desperately gunning for Activision’s FPS crown, and the turmoil surrounding Modern Warfare 3 at Infinity Ward, this year could be the start of CoD’s decline.
One reason the CoD franchise has been at the top for so long has been the fact that the games are high quality. With Activision pulling other studios like Raven and Sledgehammer to help out what is left of Infinity Ward, is the next entry in the series going to live up to the quality of the past titles? All it would take is one bad mark on the record and for EA to hit big with Battlefield 3, and CoD could start sliding down the path of Guitar Hero. If it stops making them huge amounts of profits, and another franchise takes its place as Activision’s darling, Call of Duty may be in just as much trouble as Guitar Hero some day.
Ranters, what do you think? Is Call of Duty immune to the issues that contributed to Guitar Hero’s demise, or is it just a matter of time before CoD suffers GH’s fate?
Source: Industry Gamers