The Call of Duty franchise is more ‘yearly sports title’ and less ‘bastion of innovation’

The Call of Duty franchise is more 'yearly sports title' and less 'bastion of innovation'
Image: Activision

Every year we are greeted by the usual suspects on the shelves. EA FC, Madden, and of course, another Call of Duty. We expect very little from the first two, and yet we hold Call of Duty to high expectations, despite it being a copy-paste annual release akin to sports games.

Hop into the open voice chat (if you dare) or read through the Call of Duty Reddit posts, and you’ll find the community up in arms. People hate the short, underwhelming campaign, and they are bored by the multiplayer modes and maps. Players have noticed the reused elements and expect so much more from a game that is also expected to be pumped out as a yearly release.

How much can be expected from an annual release?

Modern Warfare 3 Collateral Shooting
Image: Sledgehammer Games

With 22 titles, Call of Duty has dutifully released at least one game a year since 2005. The regularity of the games is an achievement in itself and is only really matched by sports titles. However, with the latter, people expect the same game, with updated faces, a few mechanics tweaks, and maybe another cash grab shoehorned in.

A look at something like Baldurs Gate 3, with its deep and winding plot lines and immersive world, took a huge six years to develop. This is not unusual for something that brings innovation and depth to the industry. A year is simply not enough time for teams, even ones the size of Activision, to come up with and produce something with gravitas.

However, with the price tags of games breaching the $80 dollar mark now, there are still some expectations for quality and change. It is not fair to the loyal player base to be presented with games that clearly reskin old maps and slap a new title on last year’s game. If the Call of Duty franchise really isn’t doing anything new, perhaps it should take a step back from the yearly disappointment festival. They could possibly move in a more Destiny 2 direction.

With only a year to produce the next year’s game, assets will have to be reused. Furthermore, no time is given to writing a long and engaging campaign. However, Call of Duty doesn’t need to be released yearly. Sports games call for annual releases more, to some extent. They have team changes and are in constant conversation with the annual changes of their respective leagues. However, Call of Duty just wants your hard-earned dollars.

Should the franchise change its marketing methods?

The Call of Duty franchise is more 'yearly sports title' and less 'bastion of innovation'
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Taking a look at other popular first-person shooters, such as Destiny 2, we can see that there are other options available. Call of Duty doesn’t need to be the yearly release it seems so adamant to stick to. Turning Call of Duty into a live service game could open up the opportunity to build something great on a solid foundation.

With the live service model, which has its definite advantages and disadvantages, a studio is able to focus much more on one title. Over the years that the game is out, the base foundations can be built and improved upon. Looking back at Destiny 2 on its release back in 2017, it would hardly be recognizable.

The time and space, not to mention the money that Bungie has made from the various expansions and cosmetics, have allowed the team to polish the game into a shining gem. Additions and clean-ups to the game can be made in a timely manner, working out bugs and improving on balance.

Of course, the live service model can be seen as greedy and predatory. Also, a lot of the expansions have let the audience down. However, with the Call of Duty yearly release, these issues are only compounded, and the cracks are really beginning to show. Less time is given to releasing a polished game, and almost nothing is put towards fleshing the releases out with any kind of campaign.

With a live service model, there may be a slight drop in revenue due to players no longer paying $80 yearly. However, more time can be spent working on expansions, maps, game modes, and gameplay that actually feels like it’s worth the money. At the rate Call of Duty is going, it will end up suffering the same fate as the Battlefield IP.

Changing the way we think about Call of Duty

The Call of Duty franchise is more 'yearly sports title' and less 'bastion of innovation'
Call Of Duty

All being said and done, Call of Duty does release at the same regularity as most sports games. However, sports games have a lot fewer expectations on their shoulders. No campaign is expected with monumental gunfights resulting in shocking deaths. Also, 20 new maps in unique and exciting dynamic environments aren’t required yearly. At most, a basketball arena in NBA 2K needs to be renamed after the old sponsor filed for bankruptcy.

The problem with classing Call of Duty amongst yearly release games like Madden and NBA is that it’s clearly done as a cash grab. There is no requirement for it to be released at such frequency. Therefore, it loses its right to forgiveness. I’m sure the developers are worked to the bone and sick of releasing titles they take no pride in. However, Activision is notoriously greedy. So, there is little to no chance they will stop cracking that whip and demanding the annual Call of Duty hit.

The only way to stop these greedy and unfair practices is to start boycotting the game. It has got to the point now that even the people who do mindless buy every year are starting to see the paint wear thin. The ugly truth of what is being peddled can’t be hidden forever. Inevitably, one year, the shoddy release will be just too much.

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Leo Gillick
About The Author
Leo is a Freelance Writer for PC Invasion. He has a degree in English Literature and Film Studies and more hours buried into videogames than he cares to admit. He has worked extensively in the Videogame and Travel writing industry but, as they say, get a job doing something you love and you'll never work a day in your life. He uses his writing as a means to support indefinite global travel with the current five year plan seeing him through Latin America.