Call of Duty X: 10 games later, why fans still care

By Andrew Yoon, May 01, 2013 11:00am PDT

If Activision didn't abandon Call of Duty's numbering scheme with 2008's World at War, this year's Ghosts would be Call of Duty 10. Ever since 2008, Activision's FPS franchise has seen an annual release, and against all odds, has managed to continuously grow its sales numbers. Even before an official reveal, the franchise has developed a loyal fanbase willing to buy new Call of Duty games, sight unseen. We talked to a number of Call of Duty fans about why they're still interested in COD a decade in, and what Activision can do to keep them playing for years to come.

Every year's Call of Duty seems to get bigger, with new modes continuously introduced in every iteration. Treyarch's games especially have essentially become three games in one, with a single-player campaign, multiplayer, and a co-op zombies mode. There's a reason why there's so much content packed onto the disc. Our interviews reveal that fans keep coming back for very different reasons.

As expected, many players come year after year for multiplayer. "Call of Duty has transcended from a game to a service--much like Madden. As long as Infinity Ward can deliver on keeping the multiplayer fresh and the campaign exciting, the community will follow," @joshkocurek told us on Twitter. "The multiplayer is crazy addictive. Everyone can make a kill and everyone can be killed."

People seem to love the "accessibility" of Call of Duty's multiplayer, especially the "ability to get a quick game or two in," according to @mcdoobie. And because Call of Duty is so huge, it's always easy to find a multiplayer game "at any time of the day," a feature that's crucial to Mike from the Terrible Mistakes podcast. He tells us that Call of Duty isn't just a game, but essentially a social network. "Because the series is so popular at this point, it's become one of my most enjoyable ways of staying in touch with friends."

But fans of narrative single-player experiences also come back year after year as well. Shacker Entity told us that although he's "not really into the franchise exactly, I still have fun once a year with the SP campaigns." @ZQuestion told us that although multiplayer "is where most players go to first in the COD series," but that "it's same thing the past few years with a new coat of paint." Instead, he opts to play single-player every year, pointing out to Black Ops' "interesting storyline of mind-control and manipulation."

Having alternating studios work on the Call of Duty games has also been a boon for the franchise, as gamers that don't necessarily care for Infinity Ward may like Treyarch, and vice versa. "The Modern Warfare series is a mess," YouTuber MrBrawl96 told us. But, he absolutely loves zombies mode, crediting "the cooperation needed with the subtle douchebaggery." Mike, on the other hand, prefers games from Infinity Ward, thanks to the goodwill it built from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. He plans on buying Ghosts simply because "I expect it to be from Infinity Ward."

Because there are so many different reasons for gamers to get into Call of Duty, it seems as though there is no standout title in the franchise that defines the "best" of the franchise. Everyone seems to have a different "favorite" game in the series. World at War may have the "best campaign," while Black Ops 2 has the "best zombies," according to MrBrawl96. Call of Duty 4 is popular amongst Shackers, but we saw responses praising Modern Warfare 2 as well.

While the fans we talked to couldn't agree on what makes the series so appealing, many said exactly the same thing when we asked if the franchise had made a mistake. "Call of Duty Elite Premium was a mistake," MrBrawl96 told us. "Call of Duty Elite definitely feels like a 'One Percenters' type of club," @joshkocurek added. "When it was first coming out, it sounded like anyone in the community would be interested in it, but it quickly became a top-tier, clan-based tool."

Bundling Elite and DLC didn't work for players that didn't want to commit to a "season of content." "I might not buy and play every map pack, or DLC, but by the time the next release rolls around, I am ready to play it again," Mike explained to us. Given the reaction to Elite amongst self-described fans of the franchise, it's no surprise why Activision abandoned the Elite subscription model in favor for a more traditional DLC schedule.

While critics of Call of Duty think of it as "more of the same," the franchise seems unlikely to fail due to oversaturation. Instead, it seems like the fanbase's wildly divergent expectations--created by the wide appeal of Call of Duty's many hats--may eventually splinter the base. For example, MrBrawl96 tells Activision that future games need "zombies and don't f-ck with me." Mike, on the other hand, wants a COD "in space." @ZQuestion would love to see the series "pull a Bad Company," while others want the multiplayer to be less "n00b friendly"--one of the reasons why the franchise was so popular to begin with.

Ten games into the franchise, Call of Duty has become many things to many different people. And for now, it's earned a dedicated following that trusts the brand enough to buy new games sight unseen. However, fans will expect Ghosts to be many things--a lofty challenge for Activision to overcome this year and every following year, in Call of Duty's second decology.

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