Apparently, some movie and video game studios need to rewatch The Fox and the Hound. In that Disney classic, young fox Todd asks if he and his hound dog buddy Copper will be friends forever. Big Mama the owl tells him, “Forever is a long, long time, and time has a way of changing things.”
That’s why I shivered a little when Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said, “There will always be Call of Duty games.” “Always” is a long, long time.
For the three of you who don’t know, Call of Duty is a first-person wartime shooter series which has covered several platforms, time periods, and arcs, and it seems it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Perhaps I shouldn’t complain. After all, COD games are widespread favorites. Besides, other game franchises like Mario and Zelda have gone on since the beginning of video games and they’re still going strong, so who is to say COD won’t?
That being said, however, this is the first video game company (to my knowledge) to come out and blatantly declare that there will be no end to their franchise. To me, this seems more like obstinance than passion. Like a promise to money and not to art.
Full disclosure, I’m not a big COD fan. I have nothing against the series, I just don’t care much for first-person shooter mechanics. Still, if a series I loved stood up and said, “We will always be here,” I’d flinch a little. I just think history should decide permanence, not CEOs. We should look back and say, “Call of Duty stood the test of time,” not “We will not be moved.”
To go back to my Fox and the Hound parallel; when they were kids, Todd and Copper played all the time and thought they would forever, but when they grew up, they realized hunter and hunted can’t play hide-and-seek anymore. Their lives go different ways, but in the end, they remain friends in their hearts. So technically, they did stay friends forever, but their definition of friendship changed.
Things can last forever if they’re willing to innovate and adapt. Coca-Cola tried new flavors. Authors have embraced e-books. Colgate started making candles and soaps in 1806 before turning to toothpaste. Can Call of Duty be so flexible?
Kotick went on to say that you never run out of ideas for war games and COD plays on multiple platforms, so that gives them versatility. However, even fans have noticed that COD is not great at innovation.
True, Activision shook things up with games like Modern Warfare taking the series out of World War II, but many sequels just seem like a new coat of paint rather than a new game. There may be some new tools and slight mechanical changes, but rarely anything major. Plus, the release rate is staggering. COD has released a new entry every year since 2003, some years seeing multiple games. Can Activision keep up? Again, COD games are crazy popular, so people love familiar mechanics. Still, the cynic in me can’t help but wonder when gamers are going to get tired of the same old thing.
Forever is a long, long time. Will Activision create and innovate new ways to keep the Call of Duty series fresh and relevant, or will they sink into arrogance and outdated thinking? Is “There will always be Call of Duty games” a promise to the art of video gaming or their own bank accounts?
What do you think? Can Activision pull it off or are we looking at the pride before the fall?