Low critic scores won’t harm sales, but Titanfall and Destiny may pose threat.
Media reviews of the Call of Duty franchise have no impact on sales of the games, as critics become bored of analysing the latest in Activision’s yearly first-person shooter release.
That’s according to Doug Creutz of Cowen & Company, who notes that while Metacritic scores for Call of Duty: Ghosts are hovering around the 74 per cent mark they come too late to influence pre-orders and pre-sales figures.
“We think CoD has become such an embedded franchise that it is somewhat review-proof,” he said. “We think of CoD as being like EA’s Madden NFL, which continues to sell similar unit numbers year in and year out, regardless of reviews; Madden’s Metacritic has ranged as low as 78 in recent years.
“Given that CoD changes only incrementally from year to year, we think reviewers have become increasingly less likely to give very high review scores due to a certain degree of ennui with the franchise.”
He also suggested that Call of Duty’s main competitor – EA’s Battlefield 4 – “didn’t exactly cover itself in glory” with an average Metacritic score of 80 per cent on Xbox 360, but again, reviews are unlikely to impact sales.
The biggest threat to Call of Duty and Battlefield’s dominance is likely to come from new IP next year, with Titanfall and Destiny pretenders to the throne.
“Our concern lies more with next year, when Call of Duty will face competition from several new next-gen shooters, including EA’s Titanfall and Activision’s own Destiny,” said the analyst.
“To the degree that Call of Duty may become a bit of a ‘been there done that’ experience for gamers, we think it is vulnerable to losing share as new product enters the market; even if a lot of that share goes to Destiny, as a third party title it will carry a lower margin for ATVI, and we think bullish 2014 EPS estimates assume Destiny will be more incremental than cannibalistic.”
Really looking forward to Titanfall and Destiny. This is the first year I haven’t bought Call of Duty! Black Ops 2 was the last, and now I’m fed up. I have Battlefield 4 though, and although I agree that it hasn’t been as fantastic as promised, I’m really enjoying it. People like games for different reasons. People say they hate games and still play them. I think Call of Duty will always do well despite everything “bad” with their game, which makes Devs more resistant to change anything which means even more wash, rinse, repeat. “Give the people what they want”.
I probably won’t get my mitts on the new Call of Duty until sometime in December, but I have to admit I’ve been immune to any scores that have been dished out by reviewers. Rhiosace makes a good point too – being review-proof can only be a negative thing if developers are content just to churn things out time after time.
I gave up on Call of Duty quite a while ago, when it became clear that precious little about the core game mechanics or narrative structure was going to change in newer iterations. In my view, the franchise has become little more than a platform for the sale of ever-increasing amounts of DLC, and even then the additional content is restricted to maps which offer next to no alteration to the gameplay. Other FPS games, notably those of the Bioshock mould, have attempted to tweak the formulae of the genre slightly to freshen up the experience. Regardless, it’s unlikely that Activision will change a thing considering the persistent strength of sales.