Various outlets are reporting that Activision/Blizzard has begun registering domain names for future Call of Duty titles, despite ongoing legal action from former Infinity Ward chiefs Jason West and Vince Zampella (now of Respawn Entertainment) insisting that they – not A/B – are the rightful owners of the IP.
After firing West and Zampella, Activision reorganized itself, committing one of its business units to future Call of Duty games. Presumably the Other CoD developer Treyarch (it traded off with Infinity Ward for previous titles in the franchise and is currently developing Call of Duty: Black Ops) will helm at least some of the future games, but with Activision, you never know.
The amusing thing here is that everyone is sick of WWII, which was the genesis of Call of Duty; Vietnam is getting kind of boring too; and “modern” warfare is still in legal turmoil. So Activision has decided to hurl itself into the future, registering callofdutyfuturewarfare.com, along with numerals for two sequels. Also registered were such domains as secretwarfare, advancedwarfare, and spacewarfare.
Of course, just registering a domain doesn’t mean you’re going to make a product with that name; you’re just hedging your bets. But Activision/Blizzard’s business model is explicitly stated franchise exploitation, and with three or more studios beavering on Calls of Duty at once – Treyarch and two others, likely Raven and Sledgehammer Games – we can realistically expect a new Call of Duty game every eight months from now until the moment assclown A/B CEO Bobby Kotick collapses in on himself like an imploding star.
As with the company’s ongoing blood-from-stone efforts with the Guitar Hero series, blindly refreshing the Call of Duty franchise in order to continue to dominate online shooters all but ensures that others will wind up taking the lead. EA desperately wants a money-printer like Call of Duty, and with a new exclusive deal to publish Respawn games, it might just get it. EA-published Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has already grown quite an online audience, and there’s just too much money in this segment for other developers and publishers to ignore the space while Activision continues to fumble.
Kotick’s fundamental error in the way he treats franchises is based in his own ignorance about games. He’s said he sees games as just like packaged goods, but they’re not. The business model is different, the product approach is different, the customer base is different, and the strategies must be different. Kotick assumes that any title from any franchise can be given to any developer – witness his handing off of Guitar Hero to Neversoft, a company that had essentially zero experience creating rhythm games. That Neversoft handled the job well is a testament to that developer, not to Kotick’s philosophy that all developers are precisely equal.
The other issue is that while franchises are historically trustworthy performers, the ones that perennially do well are those that reinvent themselves regularly, or consistently innovate within the safe confines of the franchise. Just doing the same thing over and over again, as A/B has does with Guitar Hero and clearly intends to do with Call of Duty, will eventually damage the franchise fanbase, as customers look elsewhere for fresher game. Activision/Blizzard is almost 100% against generation of any new IP, meaning that while its business model may appear successful in the short term, by the time Call of Duty 73: Conflict Swaziland ships, most gamers will be playing something else.
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