Sales Mean Nothing: Call of Duty Has Gone Stale

Another year, another November where Activision gets to tout its success with the

Call of Duty

franchise. This time around, the game company has announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 has generated $500 million on launch day, becoming the company's biggest opening yet. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 hit $400 million in sales on launch day last year.

As expected, Activision claims that the game's success is due to its unique gameplay and new takes on a popular gaming genre. And as expected, the millions around the globe that have flocked to game stores have helped the game publisher celebrate.

But those who have actually played the game, as I have, know that something needs to change. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is more of the same. It's as if Activision has found a way to repackage the same old game, and make customers think each year that the latest offering is so much greater. In reality, it's a stale franchise operating in an increasingly stale genre.

After breaking Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 out of the box, you quickly realize just how stale the franchise is. We're presented with familiar characters and tossed into a major battle to get things going. After playing through that level, you're then thrown into a jungle. The first setpiece battle looks huge and daunting and includes nonstop firing. The jungle level leaves you breathless as you run through the jungle to get away from an advancing force.

Although the setting is different and the name on the game disc is changed, doesn't that sound like much of what you've already done in a Call of Duty game? It's as if Activision has a big board at headquarters and on that, says that each title must have a few huge battles, a couple sniper levels, and nonstop action. After all, it's a model that, judging by sales, continues to work exceedingly well.

[aquote]The CoD franchise is essentially a bunch of new maps launched annually[/aquote]

But I've had enough. The Call of Duty franchise has become one big, repurposed offering that gets customers to pay too much for what is essentially a bunch of new maps launched annually in November. Sure, there's a bit of a storyline and the updates to online gaming are nice enough, but are they enough to justify calling the game an entirely new entry into the franchise? As far as I'm concerned, it's just more of the same.

Where is the innovation? There was a time when the Call of Duty franchise represented all that was great about first-person shooters. Now, it has become what's wrong with the genre. Each year, we see barely updated games packaged as new titles. And each year, customers flock to stores thinking the new games will deliver as much fun as those before it. In some cases, they might. In others, they might not. But if anything is certain, it's that customers hoping to get something new and fresh won't find it.

So, forget about the sales. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is the same old take on the same old formula in a $60 package.

It's just too bad that we'll continue to get such games as long as so many people buy each new title. After all, why should Activision try to fix something that, judging by sales, isn't broken?