I’m sure by now we’ve got regular readers who have already read 3 Reasons Why Call Of Duty Is the Best Shooter Series Of All Time. In the comments I sounded off and said that I might have to write a dissenting piece on the topic. I mulled it over and my biggest complaint about Call of Duty is the fact that a new one comes out every year. To me this represents a series of potential problems across multiple gaming franchises and says a lot about a lack of originality in gaming and entertainment. Of coarse Call of Duty isn’t the only offender—sports games, Need For Speed, Guitar Hero, and Assassin’s Creed are also guilty.
First and foremost, the biggest issue with annual releases is franchise fatigue. At some point or another a major franchise, be it a movie or video, is going to suffer from franchise fatigue. All it takes is one game to tank really hard. Let’s take a look at Guitar Hero.
Guitar Hero is the one game franchise mentioned above that is currently dormant. It’s also a very special case on this list as it had become bi-annual at one point. The folks over Activision came up the idea of creating two games a year, one that was your standard installment with basic enhancements and another that was basically a glorified expansion of the previous game. The first of these glorified expansions is arguably the lowest rated Guitar Hero according to Metacritic (Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80’s).
The thing about those installments is that they appealed to a certain audience—die hard music fans. The Guitar Hero games based on bands such as Aerosmith, Metallica, and Van Halen could largely be ignored and were created for die hard fans of those bands. Personally I felt like the franchise was on the decline with Guitar Hero: World Tour, which tried too hard to be Rock Band. For some people, the franchise fatigue set in much sooner with Guitar Hero 3. From that point forward it seemed that people just lost interest in rhythm games in general.
Tight deadlines are another issue. If there were no deadlines at all nothing would get done, but sometimes deadlines are too constricting. Certainly last year’s Battlefield 4 could have used an extra six months to a year before being released in its bug ridden state, and more recently we have have the issues that Ubisoft is facing with Assassin’s Creed Unity and its infamous no-face bug, which reportedly only affected PC players with certain graphics cards. That bug in particular was fixed with the day one patch. Many of these other bugs include lost or corrupt game saves, game crashes, frame rate issues and graphical issues. Ubisoft has been working hard on fixing these bugs and has a comprehensive list.
As you can imagine, many of these bugs are game breaking. I’ve walked away from games because of corrupt game saves alone. While by the time many gamers will get their hands on the game many of these fixes will be in place, the damage is already done for early adopters. It’s also important to note that Assassin’s Creed Unity was originally suppose to come out in October but was then delayed an extra two weeks for polishing. Even with two extra weeks the game had bugs. There are a couple of games that were supposed to be released this holiday season that have been pushed back until next year and hopefully they will benefit greatly from the delays.
Another glaring issue with annual games is that there are glaring inconsistencies from year to year. Both Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed demonstrates this, especially Call Of Duty with the differences between Call of Duty 2 and 3.
By now it becomes pretty obvious what the solutions are—either you have multiple studios working on a franchise or only release new games in a franchise every 2 or 3 years. Already Call of Duty has been using a multi-studio approach to a varying degree of success. Perhaps adding Sledgehammer Games into the mix and give each Call of Duty release a 3 year development cycle that will ensure the franchise’s quality. More than anything it will take a couple years to see if Activision’s switch to a 3-year development cycle will help Call of Duty maintain its longevity.
Having to wait a couple years for a new game isn’t so bad. There are a lot of games that come out each year and having to wait longer between games helps build up hype for the next game. It also gives developers plenty of time to take player feedback into consideration and release the most polished game possible. Studios could take this as an opportunity to release more fleshed out DLC and expansion packs to tide gamers over between launches. There are some pretty good game franchises that get new releases every 3 to 5 years such Grand Theft Auto and The Elder Scrolls. Sure no one likes to wait forever for the next game in a series to come out, but sometimes the wait is worth it.
The last couple of years I keep telling myself I’m done with Call of Duty yet I end up getting the next one regardless. Assassin’s Creed on the other hand might be in danger with all the flak this year’s installment got for its bugs. But I will reserve judgement on this year’s releases until I’ve played them myself. As of this time rumors about the next Assassin’s Creed game are starting to circulate. The truth is the Big 3 (EA, Activision, and Ubisoft) are going to do what makes them money. So long as gamers keep buying those games, they will be made.
I’ll leave the readers with a couple questions. Do you think games like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed have enough longevity to keep going? If so what keeps you coming back? Is it time to reinvigorate some long dormant franchises? Are you getting sick of any of these games? Sound off below.