Call of Duty has long held the title of “most stagnant franchise” in terms of its year-over-year changes to the games. This has become increasingly apparent over the past few years, with the most recent installments all being based in the future or at least partially in the future. This piece will argue why Call of Duty: Black Ops III should have been Call of Duty: World at War II. Let’s take a look at some of the past games.
|Oh how I wish it were so
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014)
Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013)
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III (2011)
Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2009)
… and now in 2015 we are having Call of Duty: Black Ops III. This will be the, count it, seventh consecutive game where Call of Duty has been based in a modern or near-futuristic setting. To put it simply, the reason why so many people dislike Call of Duty is because of a lack of change, and it’s hard to change a game when it’s being based in a similar setting every single iteration, year after year.
And that is exactly what happened before with Call of Duty. World War II was exhausted. Lets look at the list of games…
Call of Duty (2003)
Call of Duty: Finest Hour (2004)
Call of Duty 2 (2005)
Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (2006)
Call of Duty 3 (2006)
Call of Duty: Roads to Victory (2007)
Call of Duty: World at War (2008)
Back to 2008, when Call of Duty: World at War was released, the market had a similar problem but in a different setting. The market was over-saturated with World War II shooters. In 2008 alone, 21 games that were World War II shooters released (see here
). Let’s go back even further. In 2007, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released and completely shocked the market. Even more than 2008, 2007 and the years prior were almost exclusively World War II shooters. When the first Modern Warfare game was released, it brought about a change with it that, ever since, the industry has followed religiously. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was actually very similar in mechanics to its predecessors, Call of Duty III and Call of Duty II. Aside from some larger changes such as the kill-streaks online, it was a very similar and familiar game mechanically. The reason it did so well is that nothing else like it that was that big was on the market. Call of Duty: Black Ops III had the opportunity to be something else. It could have been World at War II. World War II shooters are nearly extinct in the current industry, and if it was released it would have been heralded as the change that Call of Duty needed to become relevant again in the niche gaming industry.
|This – is a wasted opportunity Treyarch
|The past two iterations of Call of Duty, being Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Call of Duty: Ghosts are actually two of the worst-selling Call of Duty games in terms of numbers isolated on platforms (meaning platform-to-platform matching, not overall matching due to the games being released on multiple generations of consoles). World at War actually has sold better than Advanced Warfare, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare remains king above both, and I would accredit that to the game leaving its comfort zone (see here). The games that would follow it sold extremely well as it was following the proverbial ‘hype train’ that Modern Warfare created. I have news for you Call of Duty, the hype train is on a collision course and unless something drastic changes, such as a change of setting, the train will crash.
There is no question – Black Ops III will sell incredibly well. It may even turn out to be the highest-grossing Call of Duty ever, and that is all that matters for any company looking to make money. The game is marketed very well and is well-known even outside the gaming public, and with the gaming industry expanding it is natural that its biggest game would as well. But to gain the respect of the niche industry Call of Duty needs to do something bold, something that the first Modern Warfare did – step outside of its comfort zone. Go back to World War II shooters, it will be of the benefit of the entire gaming community. I would bet that World at War II would sell just as well as Black Ops III
would, so why not make it?
The first World at War game featured a fully cooperative campaign, split-screen multiplayer, vehicles in online multiplayer, and the super popular Zombies mode. The game felt and looked great, and had a big following. Unfortunately, it was released right after the first Modern Warfare and as such was going against the wind that the game had created for the industry. Since the modern and futuristic settings have now been used for so long, a World War II shooter would be refreshing and frankly welcomed with open arms.
But go ahead Treyarch, make Black Ops III. I know you will implement some changes like you do every iteration but staying within the same setting is boring and bland. The game will sell millions upon millions of copies, and it will be highly reviewed because the games are made very well and to an extremely high quality. But as long as you stay within your comfort zone, the incredible will not happen again. Not like it did with the first Modern Warfare.
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