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Is Activision Losing Faith in Call of Duty?

Last week proved to be an exciting one for first-person shooter fans, especially those who enjoy the rivalry between Call of Duty and Battlefield. While EA and DICE aim to bring players back in time to World War I in Battlefield 1, Infinity Ward is set in going the opposite direction with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare thanks to futuristic tech and battles taking place in space. In an effort to sway gamers through nostalgic memories, a remastered version of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was also revealed, complete with improved visuals and lighting. With the reveal that this remastered version will not be available for individual purpose, many have begun to wonder why that is the case.

With the advent of backward compatibility on the Xbox One, many fans have been begging to get their hands on older Call of Duty titles, and Modern Warfare is at the top of that list for many. Activision is well aware of the demand and instead of simply enabling it for people to download, they smartly had one of their many studios work on essentially modernizing the classic for the current generation. Prior to the official reveal, rumors of a remastered version of the classic shooter leaked out, which sent the Internet into a flurry of activity and excitement. I personally believe that Activision is using that demand for the Remastered version to help boost this year’s mainline Call of Duty game reach the series’ lofty sales goals and to manufacture some excitement from the fanbase.

It’s no secret that the Infinity Ward/Activision rift back in 2010 – the one that saw president Jason West, CEO Vince Zampella, and numerous senior and key staff members depart – took a massive toll on the studio. The former developers would go on to found a new studio with rival EA called Respawn Entertainment, and produce a critical and commercial darling known as Titanfall. Infinity Ward, on the other hand, went on to release Call of Duty: Ghosts, the studio’s first major game developed without assistance from another studio like Sledgehammer Games following the mass exodus of key developers. Unfortunately for them, Ghosts was largely viewed as underwhelming, receiving a fair share of criticism from critics and fans alike. While the game still sold well, it underwhelmed from a Call of Duty perspective.

It can be argued that, due to the poor showing of Ghosts and the public knowledge that the studio lost a lot of their senior talent to EA, the studio may not have been held in such regard as it once had been with fans. While Infinity Ward is looking to reclaim that trust this year with its next turn at the Call of Duty plate, the other matter complicating things is the fact that the franchise may be starting to slow down somewhat in sales. While each game seems to take longer and longer to hit their sales stride, many believe the big issue is the over saturation of the futuristic setting, a reason why Battlefield 1 could potentially stand out from its competition later this year.

I believe Activision sees this as well, which is a big reason why it has decided to make Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered a bundled addition to the special editions of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare only. Thanks to the excitement for the remaster, Activision may very well believe that fans will simply purchase the main game in order to get access to it. The bundle ensures that fans will buy both games instead of having to pick between one or the other, which would also cannibalize sales due to brand competition.

The other telling sign comes from the Internet itself, which has been fairly vocal so far in its praise for the remaster and disdain for Infinite Warfare. On the initial YouTube reveal trailer, the amount of dislikes has spiked to absurd levels, forcing Activision to formally respond during an earnings call with investors. Activision CEO, Eric Hirshberg, wrote off the negativity due to passionate gamers and the fact that this behavior has been happening since Black Ops 2 was originally announced. Back then, the initial negativity eventually dissipated by the time the game released as it would go on to become one of the best selling games in the franchise. Sure, much of the current negativity could be written off as trolling (Call of Duty does tend to be a very easy target amongst gamers and has been for a few years now), but there could be a nugget of truth there as well.

Part of the hate seems to come from the fact that fans actually want to purchase Modern Warfare Remastered individually, but can’t. While some feel that this is an unwise move for the company, it appears others feel the setting has been all but played out. This near future setting has been in play since the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 back in 2011 and five years later, many other popular shooters have joined in, making the market pretty saturated. It’s quite understandable that fans are looking for something new. Still, with the first gameplay and plenty of new details expected next month at E3 2016, there’s plenty that gamers don’t yet know so it’s quite possible that Infinite Warfare could breathe new life into the franchise.

I believe that if Activision were to sell Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered individually, it would sell like hotcakes, as newer players would get to experience where the modern definition of online shooters was created. Meanwhile longtime fans would be able to tap into their nostalgia once again. Unfortunately, I believe this would also negatively impact the sales for Infinite Warfare, as many would more than likely skip this year’s entry in order to play through the classic shooter instead. It’ll be interesting to see how fans ultimately take to this deal in November once the game finally launches. Will people avoid the game out of protest, or will they ultimately give in just to be able to pick up a copy of Modern Warfare Remastered?

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is set for release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on November 4, 2016.

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