Remember last year when EA CEO John Riccitiello came out and said Battlefield 3 is better than Call of Duty in almost every meaningful way? That was one of many examples of the EA shooter franchises going to war again Activision’s Call of Duty series, even if some (including EA’s own Danger Close Games) didn’t want to partake in the shenanigans.
Well, here we go again. It’s the next round of EA vs. Call of Duty. After Activision debuted the very first gameplay trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops II last night, someone from EA took some obligatory shots at the unveiling.
Electronic Arts global product manager Kevin O’Leary went on Twitter this morning and called out Black Ops 2 as looking “tired,” without clarification. While I hate seeing hypocrisy (more on this later), I love industry people speaking their mind and firing up the competition. It’s fun!
Hopefully, EA doesn’t try to pretend this didn’t happen or cover it up, like when they took down an EA interview with Dead Space story producer Chuck Beaver where he bashed the story/writing of the Gears of War series.
So, I have three (two and a half, really) views on this. Some will say it’s immature to keep this feud going and to have EA reps and execs taking shots at a franchise they’re trying so hard to compete with. That’s secondary for me. It’s good to have competition and even better to have people keeping each other honest – people speaking their mind (when justified) is great, and better yet, it’s entertaining. What bothers me about this, and here’s where I’m going to call Kevin O’Leary out, is that this statement is entirely hypocritical.
Note the part of the tweet where he recommends the game should take a “year off and rest.” He’s referring to the common criticism of the Call of Duty games coming out annually, but what many don’t realize is that EA is doing the exact same thing.
Call of Duty comes out annually, yes, but that does not mean there’s a one-year development cycle on each. There are multiple developers alternating so there are 2+ years of development on each. Earlier in the CoD series, Infinity Ward (Modern Warfare titles) and Treyarch (World at War, Black Ops) simply traded years. Now, Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software help with each respective developer to make the games.
It’s hypocritical for anyone at EA to say what O’Leary did because they’re doing the exact same thing. Medal of Honor and Battlefield are alternating years going forward. By all accounts, when support for Battelfield 3 ends in 12-18 months, Battlefield 4 or Bad Company 3 could be out next fall. Medal of Honor: Warfighter comes out this fall, after its predecessor debuted in 2010. Crysis 3? Coming out two years after Crysis 2. Heck, even Mass Effect 3 only came out two years after Mass Effect 2. And let’s not even get into EA Sports titles or the annualized Need for Speed releases…
So, Kevin, all of EA’s big franchises are coming out with the same dev cycle and their modern shooters are embracing the same model employed by Activision. The difference is that from comparing the first installments of what’s coming from each publisher this year, Black Ops dominated Medal of Honor critically and from a sales standpoint in 2010. And so far, the Black Ops 2 trailer looks more promising, varied and different than the Medal of Honor: Warfighter trailer (watch it and see). And that’s where things get interesting.
The last few Call of Duty games have rightfully taken criticism for not doing much different or innovative. The multiplayer components have only been tweaked versions of previous installments and the games have lacked on the co-op front. It’s become stale and needs to be refreshed. For the first time in a while however, the new Call of Duty actually looks different. And this isn’t because of the future 2025 setting. It’s because of the new features, the player decisions, branching storylines, differing game endings, non-linear sandbox play and more.
Where O’Leary is right though is in the game’s graphics. The Black Ops 2 trailer showcased dated visuals, despite Treyarch’s promise of a visual overhaul and 60FPS. It still looks old vs. what the Frostbite 2 engine brings to Battlefield 3 or what the latest CryENGINE does for Crysis 3.
Despite all their aggressive PR tactics in calling out faults of Call of Duty, EA still has not managed to top their games with any of their shooter franchises: The latest installments Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Crysis – albeit successful in their own right – are all significantly behind the last three Call of Duty games in sales.
But EA knows this and it’s all part of their long-term plan to chip away at the success and market dominance of the Call of Duty brand. Let’s see what happens at E3.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II releases November 13, 2012 for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.
Source: Kevin O’Leary