“Hold your horses there Jon,” you're probably saying, since you're from the 1800s and you know I'm talking about one of the biggest selling game series of all time. And sure, Call of Duty has a pedigree almost like no other, but it's slipping and doing so badly.
The last CoD, Call of Duty Ghosts, was released to at best, a mediocre fanfare with critics saying it was fine for what it was, but that it felt somewhat lazy, as if Infinity Ward was just going through the motions – which might be understandable, since the dev has been making these games for almost ten years at this point.
This lack of enthusiasm from those in the know, combined with the resolutiongate scandal and the fact that the new consoles split everyone across a ridiculous number of platforms, led to Ghosts selling 50 per cent less copies than last year's Treyarch developed Call of Duty Black Ops II.
Of course stumping Black Ops II would be quite a challenge, since it broke all sales records when it was released, only to be beaten out this year by GTA V. But a 50 per cent drop is very noticeable and perhaps indicative of a franchise that has seen its heyday.
While in the past Call of Duty was somewhat unrivalled in its mainstream appeal, Battlefield now contends head to head with it (even with its bugs), drawing just a fraction more praise from consumers that CoD seems to do. It's seen as the cooler, alternative to Call of Duty, which won't do much to sway the casual FPS fans, but for those that pick games based on features not on brand loyalty, they're much more likely to jump ship.
But the next game will likely be Black Ops III, a sequel to a much better received game than Ghosts, but despite sales only taking a recent dip, opinions on the franchise have been slipping since Modern Warfare II. The corridor like nature the way the single player funnels players through with explosions and enemies that can't hit anything unless they're on the hardest difficulty, combined with the nasty culture of 12 years olds on multiplayer and the narrow learning curve have made for a game that is designed to appeal to the broadest audience possible and therefore struggles to really hit home with anyone but the super casual console gamer.
And Kim Dotcom [Link]
The question is, will Treyarch be able to turn this trend around with its next one?
That's going to be really difficult, because to get out of the slump that the franchise is in, it'll need to shake up the formula a bit, but that's dangerous. One developer who made simple changes to some weapons in BOII was threatened with violence against himself and his family by CoD fans. What kind of response would there be if CoD did something drastic like, dropped the single player, or based it in an open world or just did something to make the experience feel fresh and less formulaic?
No, chances are the same thing will happen next year as happened this year. Call of Duty will be released to much fanfare, increasingly mediocre reviews and a slightly smaller pool of rabid gamers that will eat it up.
The console split will continue to be a problem, as not all Xbox 360 and PS3 gamers will have moved over to next-gen by then, so that means Treyarch is faced with two options: either it releases a version for both, with the last gen version being extremely substandard, or it releases one for the new-gen only, in which case it massively limits its market and angers fans in the process.
Either way, it seems like the next one is destined to repeat the sales slump of Ghosts. While it might pick up a bit, I can't see us going back to the days or the original Black Ops with over 25 million sold.
While CoD will continue to be made year on year, I don't think it will ever regain the title of the world's biggest selling hardcore game, partly because it's far from hardcore in itself, but also because it's lost too much steam. The franchise will continue, but Black Ops III will nail the coffin lid down on the Call of Duty as we knew it.
But of course this is all opinions and speculation. What do you guys think the next CoD game will do to the series? Will it ever recover?