The Beginning of the End for Call of Duty

When trendsetters start chasing trends to stay relevant…

YouTube personality and freelance video game critic, Jim Sterling, recently called out the issue of game developers who chase trends in order to shortcut their way to success. And yet, just this year, Call of Duty announced that it would be gutting its campaign mode in favor of, you guessed it, yet another “battle royale” mode. As if that’s what the world needs right now. And boy, I’ve got to say, from where I’m standing, this looks like it could be the beginning of the end for Call of Duty – the death knell before that whole bloody, money-grubbing behemoth of a franchise comes crashing down in a gout of fire like the Hindenburg or the Roman Empire. Call of Duty may very well have finally jumped the shark.

Now… let me preface this by saying that I do think Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will sell and sell well. Last year, Call of Duty: WWII was the best-selling game of 2017. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was the best-selling game of 2016. And Call of Duty: Black Ops III was the best-selling game of 2015. In 2018, I’m certain there’s still plenty of 10-year-olds who will bang their heads on the ground until blood comes of out of their ears to get their mothers to pay for Black Ops 4… but I digress.

What I am saying is that Call of Duty is on the way out. It may not be this year, or the next, but it will be soon. Call of Duty’s grip on the title-belt of the best-selling annual franchise is loosening, and if you look at the sales figures, this is nothing new.

Call of Duty peaked in 2011 with their highly anticipated trilogy capper, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which sold over 30 million copies. But since then, the number of units sold each year has continued to drop, which isn’t surprising considering that the series didn’t update its game engine for over a decade. However, what really suggests their desperation, is the fact that they’re willing to sell their soul and identity to chase a trend that is both easier to develop and, quite simply, more monetizable.

While some may make it sound like a savvy business move to gut a campaign mode that allegedly no one is playing, these statistics don’t reflect the whole reality of Treyarch’s decision. A video by YouTuber YongYea shed some light on the fact that there’s nearly an equal number of players who play the campaign as there are who play the multiplayer.

The problem with the series’ campaigns isn’t that nobody is playing them, it’s that they’ve gotten stale and formulaic. Instead of regurgitating the same high-octane Michael Bay set pieces and investing in big-name actors à la Jon Snow and the Taco Bell nacho fries guy, why not – I don’t know, maybe tell a story that treats the subject of war with some actual gravitas? Or at least go back to your roots, because in the beginning, the campaigns were excellent.

The “Soaps,”, the Captain Prices, the Makarovs, and the Agent Hudsons were the reason I played the games, because when I was a kid, I didn’t have Xbox Live. I mean, I can still literally quote most of General Shepherd’s lines from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Call of Duty: Black Ops had some of the most memorable moments of any game I’ve ever played. The campaigns for both those games were fantastic; the characters were memorable.

The fact is while Call of Duty may have been a trendsetter ten years ago, that is not the case today. The mantle is now being passed to newer, fresher IPs – games like Fortnite and Overwatch – games that actually bring novel ideas to the table instead of chasing trends.

I could be wrong, but I think Treyarch’s decision to sacrifice story mode in favor of an easy cash grab, marks the beginning of the end for Call of Duty. It’s practically a universal law that anything that gets too big eventually collapses in on itself, and Call of Duty, the biggest AAA franchise in the industry, is no different.

Of course, this is just one man’s humble opinion. If you have any comments or stark disagreements, feel free to sound off in the comments section below. Or check out this article which further elaborates on the direction the series is going and what it means for the franchise and the “shooter” genre.

John-Paul Gemborys

JP Gemborys is a recent journalism major from UNC-CH who loves RPGs, NBA Basketball and Game of Thrones. He also loves to write and critique things that he probably has no place critiquing.

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Chris Hepburn

I heard that the campaign was not gonna be finished in time so they scrapped it, I don’t know if that is true or not, but if it is I feel it is because they had put a lot of effort into the battle royal mode and thus the campaign suffered. I do feel that CoD and Battlefield should have a battle royal mode as that would be free-for-all without respawns and it would be nice to see how the already running IPs would treat it and the game mode fits in perfectly so I don’t see why they shouldn’t,… Read more »

John-Paul Gemborys
JP Gemborys

Hey Chris, thanks for the comment! I, too heard something similar with regards to the story mode being scrapped, and you definitely have a valid point about the game deserving a battle royale mode. The game should have a battle royale mode. What kills me about it though, (if we’re right), is that they chose battle royale over story mode: a mode which (I could be mistaken) seems like it would be much easier to develop and infinitely more monetizable. I dunno, maybe I’m just old school, but I love games with good stories. The fact that they took the… Read more »