For the last three years, Activision’s Call of Duty brand has set entertainment records in the U.K. upon launch, gunning down all opposition from everything including games, films to books and music. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops and Modern Warfare 3 all achieved this feat upon their release, and as such every new entry in the series carries with it a certain expectation from fans and critics alike to slay the competition for yet another year.
Thing seem to have hit a brick wall though. While 2012’s Black Ops II has effortlessly manoeuvred into first place in the U.K. All Format Charts – plus notching up an estimated $500 million in retail sales worldwide – the game has failed take the crown for the region’s biggest launch for what would have been the series’ fourth consecutive year. In fact, it failed to topple not only last year’s effort, but also Black Ops I and Modern Warfare 2. As such, Treyarch’s latest endeavour sits as the U.K.’s fourth biggest launch ever. Are we shocked? Not really.
At this point, we wonder if brand fatigue is finally starting to set in for the general public. Many hardcore gamers have been voicing their disdain for the Call of Duty franchise for a couple of years now, but it is obvious Joe Public hasn’t been ready to turn his back on this annual behemoth just yet. And, while Black Ops II has undoubtedly sold well, it’s quite significant that the shooter failed topple its predecessor, let alone the three-year-old MW2. Ironically, it is with Black Ops II that Treyarch implemented some of the most striking innovations in the series since the original Modern Warfare, with branching story paths and a refined multiplayer and full-fledged zombie campaign the main highlights on offer. For whatever reason, this wasn’t enough, and it seems that Call of Duty may at last be starting to take a back seat as the year’s most important videogame release.
Okay, we’re not at all saying the series is sinking in the mid and that the developers need to go back to the drawing board, but it appears the series doesn’t have the commercial pull it once possessed. Plus, with the new generation inexorably approaching, we think that Activision may want to give the series a shot in the arm – sort of like Call of Duty 4 reinvigorated the series for the current crop of platforms. The multiplayer is top-notch but the campaign could do with a new direction; less Michael Bay, more Steven Speilberg perhaps? Potty-mouthed grunts, loud explosions and massive set-pieces can only get you so far, after all.
Nonetheless, Black Ops II made solid effort to really shake up the formula, but it seems that isn’t quite enough to perpetuate Call of Duty’s annual record-breaking antics. Time to shake things up before the next-gen comes along? It wouldn’t be a bad thing.
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