The video game industry has once again been thrust into a state of excitement. Every year around this time, Activision unveils a new trailer for the next installment in the Call of Duty franchise. And each year, millions around the globe get ready to buy it up later in the year.
This time around, it’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, a follow-up to the wildly popular Call of Duty: Black Ops released back in 2010, and the successor to last year’s mega-hit Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. By all measure, Black Ops 2 looks to be a fun experience for those who want to play both the single-player campaign and multiplayer.
But with new installments in the franchise hitting store shelves every year, I can’t help but wonder if it’s really such a good idea to buy a new Call of Duty game every year.
I suppose the sales say it is a good idea. Since Modern Warfare 2, each Call of Duty game has shattered previous sales records and become the top entertainment industry revenue generator in history. Although the gameplay is about the same and the themes are similar, consumers can’t seem to wait until they can get their hands on the latest iteration each year.
Still, each new Call of Duty game builds upon the last option, which makes them rather derivative after a while. With each new version, I can expect about the same graphical quality, the same basic guns, and an often-confusing storyline. What’s more, the multiplayer experiences, while nominally upgraded each year, don’t deliver anything so valuable that I’d need to ditch last year’s title for this year’s.
With each new Call of Duty game, I can just about plan to expect a couple of sniper levels, one “unique” level that tries to deliver something I’ve never tried before, two or so “snow” levels, and at least one in the jungle. Beyond that, I’ll spend time in an urban environment shooting off machine guns and tossing grenades.
Of course, Call of Duty isn’t the only franchise that does this. Each year, Electronic Arts launches a new installment in its Madden franchise, and the gameplay is about the same. But like Call of Duty, consumers buy up that game each year without even thinking twice about it.
Perhaps now it’s time to question whether buying a new Call of Duty game every year is really such a good idea. Sure, the games are fun, and yes, the multiplayer is exciting, but why spend $60 per year on a game that’s basically the same thing wrapped in a different name and skin?
Uniqueness is what should drive the gaming industry today. But in too many cases, that simply doesn’t happen. And the first-person-shooter segment of the market only further proves that.