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

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.

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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.

The game that started it all

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."

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare thrust the series into the modern era

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."

Call of Duty's zombie modes have earned their own following

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.
From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 1, 2013 11:00 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Call of Duty X: 10 games later, why fans still care.

    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.

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      May 1, 2013 12:04 PM

      sadly, i don't care anymore.

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        May 1, 2013 1:59 PM

        You are not alone.

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        May 1, 2013 2:17 PM

        Yeah, I haven't cared for a while but lately I hardly even pay attention. I'm kind of hoping the series will just die off and something new can take it's place.

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        May 1, 2013 2:19 PM

        (ye ye)

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        May 1, 2013 2:26 PM

        It's not even sad. They don't deserve our continued support if they're unwilling to work for it.

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        May 1, 2013 2:49 PM

        Am I cooler than you for never caring? Because I think so.

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          May 1, 2013 2:58 PM

          No, the original CoD was an incredible game. You have to know the exact right point in the series to stop caring in order to maximize coolness.

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            May 1, 2013 3:42 PM

            But then someone will say 4 and another hipster will come out and say that 2 was the apex of the series. It will end in tears.

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            May 2, 2013 1:36 AM

            It was most certainly after the first Modern Warfare. That game was fresh, original, had good multiplayer with dedicated servers...it was damn awesome.

            After that one...I just stopped giving a shit about CoD. It's a gamer for non-gamers/wannabes/poser-nerds.

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            May 2, 2013 10:05 AM

            LMAO...

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        May 1, 2013 2:53 PM

        I think I'd care if I wasn't busy enjoying Battlefield 3

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        May 1, 2013 2:56 PM

        [deleted]

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        May 1, 2013 3:29 PM

        This is actually the first CoD title I'm generally interested in.

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        May 2, 2013 2:15 AM

        I stopped after Black Ops.

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      May 1, 2013 2:59 PM

      I stopped at Black Ops. It was pretty good

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      May 1, 2013 3:41 PM

      I'll think of CoD having the same effect on PC keyboard and mouse FPSes as adventure gamers felt that Myst had on their genre.

      - MW2 killed off mods and dedicated servers, and most other devs followed suit.
      - Publishers started "chasing Call of Duty", leading to things like the modern-era Medal of Honor games (which decimated EA LA, or Danger Close, as it was renamed), as well as Homefront (which killed off Kaos).
      - It also led to far higher concentration on ultra-cinematic railshooter campaigns (as illustrated here: http://refugeinaudacity.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/leveldesignclassic.jpg ) Two-weapon systems, perks and persistent stats, and quick-time events.

      Building a PC FPS game isn't cheap, unless you go the ultra-minimalistic route, like Wolfire's "Receiver". And there are very few studios that "get it", in terms of FPS control design, but most of them are falling off:

      - Epic Games: they don't make PC FPS games anymore (not counting Bulletstorm, a console-rific shooter), and most of their legacy FPS-centric studio talent left in the past year. They're going to fart out Fortnite at some point as a UE4 showcase, but you can already see in most of the UE3 games how PC-hostile the input code has become.
      - Id Software fumbled with Rage in 2011, and has to go find itself again. Maybe they have some announcement at E3 or QuakeCon, but it's been so hectic over there the past year, I'm not optimistic.
      - Valve has been concentrating heavily on DOTA 2, which isn't even released, but has been flogged for 2 solid years.

      There are some signs of life, like Dishonored, but most are still multiplatform-focused, and others are MMOFPSes. It's sad for a campaign-and-non-persistent-deathmatch-centric PC FPS player like me, who has to take refuge in the classics. It's a bitter viewpoint, but I feel like a bunch of douchebags ran off with the entire genre.

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        May 2, 2013 1:34 AM

        +1 I can't disagree on any one point.

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        May 2, 2013 2:50 AM

        That picture always makes me sad, the left is the original Dark Forces, isn't it? I loved the complex map overlay in those games, a definite reminder that levels are smaller and less intricate now.

        Dishonored is absolutely hands down a shining light in the darkness IMO, utterly adored the choice and area design in that game.

        I'm not sure Epic/id/Valve are overly influenced by CoD. Valve do what the hell they want and polish it to death, be it linear-but-amazing FPS or MOBA. id have definitely lost their way, it feels like their design team is stuck in the past and doesn't know how to take exciting risks. Epic just go where the money is, which for a while was console but now digital has made PC sexy again.

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          May 2, 2013 3:22 AM

          It's Doom, but DF1 was very impressive for its time.

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            May 2, 2013 3:54 PM

            Ah. Thanks. Remember a level in df with 3 turbines which is what made my think that

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        May 2, 2013 2:54 AM

        You can blame CoD for a lot, but killing mods isn't in that category.

        Mods just take too much effort to make and gain such little exposure that they just aren't viable in any sort of meaningful time frame. CoD did not cause this, it's the high quality graphic and art style (which requires huge effort to build) demanded by essentially all players these days that killed mods.

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          May 2, 2013 3:01 AM

          I partly agree, but also very few games have mod tools now because it's so hard to make user friendly ones, given modern game complexity, instead of just throwing together tools that work well enough for professionals. I think Crysis was the last big one? And that has a fairly healthy mod community it seems.

          Now it's all about indy games, Unity etc, but that's still harder than just jumping into UnrealEd and carving out a multiplayer arena to get you started with modding.

          We're definitely along way from the Half Life goldern era, that was such an amazing game for lots of crazy and awesome mods. AHL, CS, they hunger, firearms, frontline force, science and industry...

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            May 2, 2013 3:02 AM

            ... natural selection, the specialists, DoD. I mean jesus, nothing like it since for modding. :(

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            May 2, 2013 3:23 AM

            It's kinda weird to see an entire "sector" like modding just go away. Not all things are advanced as the medium progresses.

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              May 2, 2013 4:01 AM

              Indeed. id basically birthed it, Epic and Half Life followed up by offering better editing tools, it's been mostly down hill from there. :/

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      May 1, 2013 3:41 PM

      I'm going to just assume this was an intentional character modelling - http://chattypics.com/viewer.php?file=CODBO2_Palmienteri_pvl19gyakt.jpg

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      May 1, 2013 3:46 PM

      I have very find memories of CoD2 when the 360 launched! Very awesome launch game.

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        May 1, 2013 4:01 PM

        *fond. Also the first time I played CoD4 was kinda mind blowing.

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          May 2, 2013 2:52 AM

          The first Modern Warfare was a blast, SP and MP, and a definite advancement on the previous titles, not just in era. They've just been rehashing that formula ever since though and it's pretty sad that plenty of people still lap it up. Most of the CoD players are the kind of people who buy maybe one or two other titles a year, usually madden/fifa or gta.

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      May 2, 2013 1:55 AM

      They are well made, fun games that people get 100 hours or more out of for their $60. I still play Spec Ops from the MW2/MW3 with a friend of mine. Always a good time.

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      May 2, 2013 4:23 AM

      It seems like the CoD series, at this point, has been kept alive and sustained by the Wal-mart aka "casual" crowd of gamers who don't care about the details that harder-core gamers do. If they cared more about their games, they'd stop blithely accepting the same game being produced over and over for the past few years.

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        May 2, 2013 10:07 AM

        I don't understand this mentality of getting the latest version of what amounts to be basically the same formula/story year after year. Same mentality that pushed people to buy Madden year after year.

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      May 2, 2013 5:48 AM

      Jezus. I stopped after COD2 but I did play the free weekend MW4 2 a bit.

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      May 2, 2013 11:36 AM

      I buy COD games because of the zombies. I'm interested in nothing else, although I admit I would if they release another WWII game. C'mon, enough modern warshit, it's about time for a decent version up to current engines....

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      May 3, 2013 10:26 AM

      I too have fond memories of playing MW and Black Ops 1, but, the games have changed so little, at least IMO, that it does not have enough newness to grab me. Until the next gen of games I was basically exhausted after black ops 1.

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