Today Activision followed up the monumental news of its recent partnership with Bungie Studios with the announcement of the latest addition to the Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty: Black Ops will be released on November 9th and continues with the leap frogging of studios Infinity Ward and Treyarch. Treyarch’s last game Call of Duty: World at War was set during the time of WWII and featured the pacific conflict as its theatre of war.
This announcement got me to thinking about the current release schedule of many games. Market saturation was first experienced by those interested in the music game genre of Guitar Hero. Activision released too many games and peripherals for people to keep up with and as an unintended result, hurt the genre as a whole. Activision has long stated they planned to serialize the Call of Duty franchise, release multiple titles and it leads one to wonder if they’ll drive this genre and quality franchise into the ground.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was only just released last November, and to date is one of the top played games on Xbox Live, the first map pack was released on March 30th of this year. With the latest CoD game set to drop next November one can only feel a bit overwhelmed. While I don’t expect many more map packs, if at all from Infinity Ward I can’t help but feel that these games should at the very least be on a two year development cycle. I hadn’t really come to feel this way until I began considering what I consider to be the flagship title of the Xbox brand, Halo. Halo 2 was released for the original Xbox console, and featured access to the new Xbox Live service in November of 2004. Up until April 14th of this year, Halo 2 was still seeing considerable traffic. As of today, Halo 3 is the number 2 most played title on Xbox Live and it has been out since 2007.
What makes the Halo games stand out so significantly that they receive massive amounts of play time logged on them? Dedication. Bungie Studios are one of the best at interacting with their community, and have consistently kept their player base happy by releasing regular map packs and constructing such a sound product that even after all these years the game mechanics still hold up.
On the final day of Xbox Live’s Halo 2 coverage, I logged into the game one last time in order to play the game that is responsible for me becoming such an avid gamer and was amazed at how easily I slipped back into the gaming mechanic. While i’m not saying there weren’t some speed bumps as I got used to playing a game I hadn’t touched in three years, I was floored by how well the maps and game still worked. Graphically, Halo 3 may not be on the same level as MW2 or Bad Company 2 but obviously the gameplay is there and it is giving gamers a good reason to keep playing.
What concerns me about game franchises is that in an effort to maximize profit margins, the publishers are pushing too much of the same product into the market. From my own luke warm reaction to the new release of CoD: Black Ops, I can only but pity Treyarch for drawing the short straw. Not only does releasing similar games so close together hurt the player, it also hurts the company who has to put their name on the product. Releasing so close to MW2 doesn’t give gamers ample time to experience a game and move on, which isn’t fair to the studio who just put a new game out. The development cycle on these games are considerable and I know without a doubt that Treyarch worked very hard to create this product. With the Xbox Live Arcade release of Breach in the summer, and the upcoming Medal of Honor game that will feature modern era combat, we can only but hope the flood of shooters based in this modern era ceases soon. A person can only replay “Black Hawk Down” so many times before the set pieces start to get old.