Call of Duty: The Past, The Present, and The Future

     Call of Duty released its first title in 2003, since then it has dominated the charts and established itself as a staple franchise in the video games domain. As we approach it’s sixteenth birthday, we thought it would be appropriate to look back and reflect on one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time, second only to Mario.

     The franchise first took off with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, where it became the best seller of 2007. It was simple, boots on the ground, three killstreaks, responsive shooting mechanics and a classic run-and-gun feel. This is not something we can say about the last five, or six Call of Duty releases, which have evolved quite a bit from its roots. The core fanbase appears to be moving on to other FPS games, as the sales have been declining since Call of Duty: Ghosts – the only exception was an increase in sales for Call of Duty: World War II because of the excitement of the return to boots on the ground.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

     The Call of Duty franchise has come a long way, and has experimented over the years, with the introduction of game-changing ideas like jetpacks, wall-running, maneuvers, and healing. The long-time FPS giant is up for a big challenge this year with the return of the Modern Warfare series, the pinnacle of Call of Duty. This year, it is up to Infinity Ward – of the several developers, Treyarch, Infinity Ward, and Sledgehammer that Activision has tasked with the Call of Duty franchise.

The Past

     The series began with the release of Call of Duty (2003), developed by Infinity Ward. Estimates for the number of sales range from 1 to 1.5 million copies. This is far from impressive in comparison to newer Call of Duty titles, which blow past double digit figures in the millions. However, for this time period I don’t think any executives were complaining.

     The franchise really took-off during the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. It is a marker of a new era of Call of Duty, and it changed the way the game developed completely. This is an iconic name in the Call of Duty franchise, and most video gamers are quick to recognize this title, and its success. The game was simple, easy to learn, and straightforward.

     Call of Duty has strayed away from this ever since the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which introduced all-new ways to play the game. The killstreaks were arguably some of the most diverse, and the game overall was printing money, but at the time, was criticized by the competitive scene for its faults like unlimited grenade launchers – with the use of the ‘One Man Army’ perk. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 allowed players to experience a more in-depth game compared to its predecessor, which greatly added to the fun without going overboard on complex mechanics. The killstreaks were something you could choose, and the perks were not as is, they became pro perks which had additional advantages. The weapons in this game were a blast, with the infamous ACR, UMP45, Spas-12, or Intervention, there were a variety of guns complementing any playstyle. It had so much to offer with its simplicity and snappy gunplay.  

The Present

     The current era of Call of Duty (post-Black Ops II) has significantly more depth, balance, and lots of unique additions that change the style of gameplay. Now predominantly sculpted by the competitive scene, some critics argue the “casual” Call of Duty fanbase has been taking a backseat by the developers, specifically Treyarch. The biggest change being the introduction of jetpacks in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. According to sales numbers and public reception, the game was a bust. Call of Duty continued with jetpacks for the next two Call of Duty’s following – Black Ops III and Infinite Warfare, the reasons for this were presumably due to being already deep in development, with the game built around these mechanics. 

     Call of Duty sale numbers were falling up until they decided to return to boots on the ground, in Call of Duty: WWII. It was viewed as a strong step in the right direction, and exactly what the Call of Duty franchise needed at the time. Then came Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII, released last year which has done extremely well. It has integrated new ideas, while also sticking to boots on the ground. There are some faults with weapons, such as the shotguns, but overall, the game is a success. 

     Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII has introduced even more features, deep into development even mimicking the hero shooter genre (Overwatch, Team Fortress 2, etc) but tuned it back when early testing showed the players hated it. On launch we saw specialists, which are different abilities depending on the character chosen. This has changed the way the game is played immensely and has added a new dimension to the competitive Call of Duty scene. Players are more strategic with specialists, to ensure they can maximize the potential with each one. Call of Duty has also advanced customization of characters and weapons a great deal, allowing players to get supply drops – random draw of three items. Players can customize characters, guns and each specialist to their liking depending on what they have unlocked. Blacks Ops IIII has undoubtedly the most depth to customization and new features. This has been the current trend of the Call of Duty franchise for 4-5 years.  

The Future

     Infinity Ward’s relatively recent release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare trailer, seems to hint at the franchise going back to its roots. Simple, run-and-gun style gameplay, with great killstreaks. This trailer was big, with the return of an iconic figure within the Modern Warfare campaigns, “Soap” MacTavish. It points to something bigger, the original Modern Warfare’s that we all loved is coming back, at least in some way.

     The franchise has not had any success with jetpacks, so it is more than fair to say that the new Call of Duty games will be boots on the ground for some time before they try experimenting again. The idea seemed great, and innovative at the time, but when reality hit with Advanced Warfare, the public went haywire. The three Call of Duty studios learned their lesson with that one.

    The future of Call of Duty is bright, it has met some obstacles in the past four to five years, but has been on the rise again. The new Modern Warfare makes us more than hopeful that we will experience the classic Call of Duty we all enjoyed as kids.

Written by: Assud Shad, Edited by: Yousuf Shad

Photo by bigdigo on Trend Hype / CC BY-NC-SA

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