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Has Call of Duty Reached its Zenith?

Fired Infinity Ward Execs sue Activision

Nobody ever heard of the original Call of Duty. Sure, it was a game and people played it, but it wasn’t anything special. Call of Duty 2, on the other hand, really stole some of the spotlight. It was a smash hit on the 360, and I played it a LOT on the PC. Call of Duty 3 was a game I purchased for the PS3, but Treyarch’s first effort in the Call of Duty franchise left a lot to be desired. (They say they had very little time to prepare, which is fine.)

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare sold 1.3 million copies (right?), despite the fact that Activision didn’t even want Infinity Ward to modernize the franchise. The covers were blown off, and the Call of Duty franchise really came into its own as a popular hit and as a money tree for the ever-hungry Activision. Then Call of Duty: World at War was Treyarch’s attempt at putting themselves on the same footing as Infinity Ward. But the lackluster single player campaign, the nothing-new multiplayer, and the stupid addition of zombies just to score some nonsensical points clearly showed that Infinity Ward wears the pants in the Activision family.

Finally Modern Warfare 2 arrived last fall and it’s already sold more copies than the original Modern Warfare. Even with its faults, the game is a ton of fun, and sales certainly reflect that. Infinity Ward has hit it out of the ballpark – heck, out of the county – with this game. I play it several times a week, and several of my friends do too. I’ve never been able to talk about a single game with so many different friends before. Some play it on PC’s, some on 360’s, and the lucky ones can play it on the PS3 with me. ๐Ÿ™‚ Everyone has a copy of this fun game.

But I think the joyride is over.

Infinity Ward will never be the same after the lawsuit. My guess is that Jason West and Vince Zampella will start a new game company, and that several of the Infinity Ward faithful will follow them. No matter how much Activision protests that a game is not made by an individual, Mr. West and Mr. Zampella were the driving force behind Infinity Ward, and now there’s a vacuum in the company that Activision can’t fill. Infinity Ward is now missing two of its key creative forces. And Activision’s heavy handed tactics will totally demoralize the remaining Infinity Ward employees. Is this how a company should treat the two people that made it five billion dollars? I’ve been at companies when there were layoffs. Everyone walked around like those zombies that should never have been in WaW. But having your own company treat two of the best people like they were shoe scum must be just that much more worse. Infinity Ward will not be the same for a long time, if ever.

And do you think that any other studio Activision owns can really take the Call of Duty franchise to the next level? Treyarch has shown that they can make a decent copy-cat game. But they can’t innovate like Infinity Ward. There just is nobody else.

So I expect to see Activision pump out more mediocre Call of Duty games over the next couple years, but I don’t expect anything special. I’ll have to look elsewhere for that. And do you know where I’m going to look? Three places. They’re all the obvious ones, and you won’t be surprised, but I’ll list them anyway.

  1. The obvious one to mention first is the studio Jason West and Vince Zampella will create. I think they still hunger for more, and they’re going to go out and create it.
  2. Bungie. I don’t own own a 360, and have owned a PS3 since launch, but even I have to admit that the Halo games are good fun. After this fall’s Halo game is done, Bungie will be free to work on what they want, and I think it’ll be something new, and I’m hoping it’ll be on the PS3.
  3. Guerilla. Killzone 2 was underrated, and I think it should have done a lot better than it did. I’m still trying to get my friends to buy used copies so that we can get together and play it. (No luck so far.) I think that Guerilla’s next PS3 game will really be a kicker now that they know the platform. (I just hope they do splitscreen!)

So who will create the next big shooter? West/Zampella? Bungie? Guerilla? Or somebody else? I have a strong feeling it won’t be Activision.