Call of Duty is king. On PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 alone, the last two games in the series have sold over 52 million copies. Hundreds of thousands play every night and over 12 million belong to the subscription service “Elite.” As with many annualized franchises, the challenge comes with keeping things fresh while retaining the base gameplay experience, and bringing enough new material to persuade gamers to keep coming back.
The Call of Duty series is still incredibly successful, yet sales of recent titles have slowed. Some analysts have predicted that the fall of Call of Duty is soon to come. Sales remain high, but sales growth is coming to a halt. Call of Duty may have reached its saturation point. There are many possible factors like newfound competition from Battlefield and Medal of Honor, a plethora of second tier military shooters, the spread of Call of Duty’s experience and level mechanics into other games and genres, and an overall decline in sales in the past year. By many gamers’ admissions, the online multiplayer in Call of Duty has become unapproachable to new players. The significant overhaul of the multiplayer structure for Black Ops 2 seems to be a tacit acknowledgement of this fact. Deaths are frequent, kills are scarce, and the learning curve is high. Call of Duty may not be spreading as fast as it had in the past, but Treyarch is making sure Black Ops 2 is the best Call of Duty game to date.
Black Ops 2 is not an incremental update or roster update like many annualized games. By comparison, it barely resembles a Call of Duty game. The loadout system has been completely replaced by the new “Pick 10” system. Rather than choosing specific weapons and perks for each slot in previous games, regardless of whether you used them or not, the “Pick 10” system is incredibly customizable. It allows players to choose an extra perk instead of a sidearm, a primary weapon with three attachments, or any combination of guns, perks and attachments so long as the point value equals 10. Everything has a point value of 1, and there are some limitations to perks and attachments, but the system was designed and tweaked as a tabletop game before any coding was done. It allowed for easy and quick modifications rather than releasing a broken system on launch and tweaking it via updates. Treyarch gave plenty of thought into how the new system was to be designed in order to satisfy longtime fans and to leave it open enough for newcomers.
While the new “Pick 10” system is making the game more “casual friendly,” a more noticeable modification has been made to the Prestige mechanic. With previous titles, it was used in order to extend the online experience and gave dedicated players new challenges and reset their level and weapon progress in order for them to feel a sense of progression all over again. This resetting often turned off less hardcore players that found it unfair that they had lost everything and it was seen as a waste of time for no more than a title, icon and bragging rights. In Black Ops 2, challenge and weapon progress is not reset. This means that experimentation with weapons and attachments should be easier than ever and the amount of time spent grinding for new gear should be significantly decreased. This should extend online gameplay more than ever, as those who would prestige once, twice, or not at all may decide to do so multiple times. It was a much needed redesign to the reboot system.
Rather than rereleasing the same base game with minor tweaks and feature swaps, Treyarch has taken note of the criticisms of the Call of Duty brand. The developer has been incredibly progressive with the multiplayer experience, which is what drives the majority of sales for the genre. Further changes to the system need to be implemented in the future by Infinity Ward and Treyarch if they want to keep expanding the brand. Call of Duty has more competition than ever, boosting more advanced tech and visuals. Overall sales growth may be slowing for the brand, but Black Ops 2 is creating a new type of Call of Duty experience for a larger group of gamers that could change that fact.
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