So we already know that a new Call of Duty is on the way for next year—for most game publishers, that would be enough of a project. Not for Activision!
While Modern Warfare 3 is largely the same game as 2009's Modern Warfare 2, Activision feels the biggest improvement comes from the new Call of Duty Elite stat-tracking program, which allows players to watch replays of matches, check which weapons and equipment they use most, compete for prizes, and for $50-a-year premium members, get exclusive video content and access to a year's worth of DLC.
From Sonny Chacko, studio head for Elite dev Beachhead:
"Call of Duty has one of the largest and most passionate communities out there--Elite is our chance to build something special for them. Our goal is to create a service that is integrated with the game and extends the experience into our daily lives. Elite enhances your Call of Duty experience and that can mean a lot of different things with such a large and diverse fan base.
"Our mission at Beachhead Studio is to push beyond the boundaries of the traditional game experience. We want our friends planning tonight's match on Elite when they are supposed to be at work. We want new players to have a chance to learn a bit before they get smoked in team death match. We want our hardcore fans exhausted, reviewing that last heatmap before they go to bed. Our focus is on bringing Call of Duty into your daily life and that feels pretty innovative."
So does this mean I can blame my lack of productivity at work on Call of Duty? Beachhead and Activision's goal is simple: to bring multiplayer—which is normally reserved only for hardcore, longtime players—to a wider audience. With the popularity of Call of Duty, more people are coming online to play against other people.
"Multiplayer has exploded and everyone is starting to understand why: it is rewarding to compete online and fun to team up with your good friends to do it.
"One third of our mantra is 'Improve'--and we're fond of saying that there's no manual for multiplayer. We wanted to give even the most casual fans a place to get started and step up their game by looking at maps, trying suggested loadouts, or visualizing their performance."
Beachhead product director Noah Heller summed it up nicely:
"Our hunch is that the average guy doesn't care if he's ranked 1,000 or 100,000. But we think he'll care about whether he's ranked first among his friends or enemies. We try to apply this principle to a lot of our features – what do our most passionate fans like and how do we make it more appealing to everyone?"
And according to Call of Duty Digital VP Jamie Berger, it's going to be less about a strong fan following and more of an obsession when talking about Elite TV, the exclusive video content available to paying members:
"We like to use the analogy of sports when we talk about Call of Duty Elite. If you love football, sometimes you want to play football with your friends, or study your Fantasy Football team, watch a game on TV, or sometimes be entertained by Sports Center talking about football. Elite TV behaves the same way, where you may just want to be entertained when you can't actually get in front of your console. It's a great experiment in expanding the idea of a gaming service."
Well, at least they came right out and said it: Activision and its subsidiaries wants you thinking about Call of Duty all the time... and maybe that's the problem.
See, I like fighting games. I put good money into buying a Hori VX to improve my game. I put hours into practice mode doing and re-doing combos, studying frame data and match-ups. But I also realize that this is a little bit nuts and can't do it all the time, and have plenty of other hobbies not even remotely related to fighting games, and it's equally nuts to expect that level of interest from everybody else, no matter the genre of game.
What do you think? Is Activision just trying to spread their brand to a wider audience, or are they really trying to monopolize the gaming scene with their military shooter?