Call of Duty: Again [Updated]

Call of Duty: Elite was just announced, which is a slew of new features for Call of Duty games including Black Ops and future projects.  The problem?  You’ll have to pay a monthly fee to get them.  They haven’t said which features will require the fee and which ones won’t, but I’ve read all about them and none of them seem even vaguely worth a monthly premium.  Every feature announced has been included in several other games for free, in some cases as long as seven years ago.  One of the defenses I’ve seen is that not paying for the new features doesn’t mean you lose out on anything, but I vehemently disagree.  Below is the response that I’ve used, reposted because I felt it was rant-worthy.

People are saying that this doesn’t harm the people who don’t pay in any way, but that’s just not true.  Call of Duty has largely been the same game over and over again since CoD4 with minor tweaks and settings changes.  After years of this the developers are finally saying that they’ll do something new, but they’re going to charge you extra for it?  They’re saying that customers who pay $60 a year for their games aren’t worth innovating for, and that they’ll only provide new features for people who are willing to pay out the nose for it.  It’s disgusting, and yes it does harm people who don’t pay for it because they’ll be forever stuck with the same rehashed game while new features are robbed from them.

Meanwhile, look at Halo.  Halo 2 added online game play, clan support, and expanded the custom mode editor.  It even had these heat maps and extended website features that Call of Duty is just now adding.  That was in 2004.  Halo 3 added an entire level editor, a theater mode, and a set of items that could change the entire way the game was played.  ODST added firefight mode and night vision.  Reach included a massive upgrade to the level editor, a huge blank slate level, a rewards system, and a class system.

Forge World: infinite content for free.

The Halo series is what you get when a developer sets out to make a “better” Halo each time rather than “another” Halo.  When a developer makes a genuine attempt to improve their series you get Halo Reach, Rock Band 3, Portal 2, Team Fortress 2, and Mass Effect 2.  You get revamps of the entire game, major upgrades, and some serious work put into it.  Guess what?  You get these new features just for buying the game!  That’s what sequels used to do, remember?  They used to innovate and drive the industry forward.

This isn’t what Call of Duty does.  Every year they set out to make “another” Call of Duty.  Another Guitar Hero.  Another Tony Hawk.  Another Fallout 3.  Another Madden game.  Am I ringing any bells here?  It’s the same games being rehashed again and again because they know that their customers will buy whatever they put out.  Your money has shown that you don’t care about innovation and you don’t care about getting value for your money.  You just want “Call of Duty: Again” every year.  Now Activision is actually planning on offering new features, but they want you to pay out the nose for them.  This should not be acceptable, but you all vote with you money.  Just keep in mind that you guys made Modern Warfare 2 the fastest selling game in history and your only reward was a palette swap.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that Call of Duty fans should all jump ship to Halo.  It’s a completely different style of shooter and there ‘s a reason they don’t play it, but surely they should be demanding that Activision’s studios behave like Valve, Blizzard, Bungie, and Harmonix?  Every time that a Call of Duty fan goes out and buys the next game in the series they’re rewarding Activision for their inaction.  Even worse, it inspires other developers to create copycat games and “CoD killers” like Homefront.

August Update

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 had two DLC packs, which ran fans for a total of $30.  They cost a bit more than usual, but this is pretty normal behavior for a FPS title.  It’s a way of getting 50% more cash from as many players as possible, and the maps become useless when those people inevitably purchase Call of Duty: Black Ops a few months later.

Call of Duty: Black Ops now has three DLC packs that will cost you a total of $45, and they’ve already announced a fourth one.  Assuming that they’re done with DLC for this game, that’s $60 of DLC for a $60 game.  I would be completely fine paying that sort of fee in one of my favorite games if I knew that I would get my money’s worth through extended play, but the next game comes out in a few months!  All of this content will become useless when all of these gamers either move on to the next game at launch or follow their friends a bit later.  Can you see what’s happening here?  Activision saw that releasing five Guitar Hero games in a single year was a bad idea, so they’re looking for new ways to charge you for multiple games each year.  Judging from how happy people seem to be about this zombie pack, they’ve clearly succeeded in doubling how much money they’re going to make off of many of their customers.

What blows my mind is that many of these lunatics will also spend $150 for the prestige edition of the game every single year, then buy $60 of DLC.  How can someone throw more than $200 at a company annually for releasing what is largely the same game over and over again?

Are these really worth an entire game to you? Because that's what they'll cost.

How much DLC will Modern Warfare 3 have?  Will they up your fee to three games a year, with $120 in DLC?  They’re already planning on offering a service at a monthly fee, so the sky is the limit.  Before long a Call of Duty habit will be more expensive than playing World of Warcraft, but at only a small fraction of the content.

Why are fans willing to put up with all of this?  They actually might be getting sick of all this, too.  A recent Game Informer poll asked players what game they were looking forward to the most this holiday season, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 held a mere 6.5% of the vote.  Battlefield 3 managed to pull ahead with a solid 10.8%, but why?  My guess is that every time Activision wrung more money out of a Call of Duty fan all those free DLC packs for Bad Company 2 started looking a whole lot more appealing.  I’m sure that the 64 player vehicular combat and a sexy-as-hell trailer helped, too.

Either way, I’ll be very disappointed if Modern Warfare 3 manages to break records for the series again.  People should know better by now.  If you’re sick of what Activision is doing, talk to your friends that you play with.  Whenever I speak with someone about why they buy every single Call of Duty game it always seems to be because all of their friends buy it.  It almost seems like there’s a consensus that people just buy Call of Duty games out of habit or because of their friends.  Call of Duty has gravity, but that can be broken.  Halo is probably an entirely different ball park, but maybe more of you are interested in the Battlefield series than you think.  Hold a discussion about it, and maybe you’ll all be able to jump ship together.  Try out the demo that’s sure to come out, and keep an open mind.  There will be differences, but those are a good thing.  Call of Duty fans have been robbed of innovation and variety for far too long, and deserve better than this.


3 Responses to “Call of Duty: Again [Updated]”

  1. He4vyHitt3r Says:

    This is a very good blog and I agree with many of the points you guys bring up. The video game industry, and every industry, is charging more for everything everyday. I almost consider playing the 15$ a month WoW over my xbox because in the long run it is cheaper. I definitely don’t buy new games because it is too expensive with the DLC. However, what can anyone do about this? Regardless people are going to buy every single Call of Duty. EVERY SINGLE ONE. And the Treyarch ones are honestly terrible video games compared to Infinity Ward, but people will still buy them. I don’t want to sound negative but nothing is going to stop business these days. And with the fame attached to the Call of Duty franchise it will only get worse and worse. But good blog..

    • I disagree. Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero have both shown that a popular series can still be milked to death. Sooner or later everyone has a limit to how many of the same game they can take and how much they’re willing to pay for it. Call of Duty is just a much larger beast so it’ll take a lot longer to die down. Hopefully it’ll slow the process enough for Activision to realize their mistakes and fix them, but after watching failed franchise after failed franchise I seriously doubt it. Their business model seems to be to milk a popular franchise into the ground and then just fire everyone when it stops making the kind of profit that they want.

  2. whats worse is that they promise this stuff on a date and then it doesnt come out at midmight for those of us who actually care enough about the series to pay for DLC Bad move treyarch you just lost another customer

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