Last week saw the announcement trailers for two of the biggest franchises in gaming. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1 will be with us later in the year and for the first time in a while they are shaping up to be very different games. The announcement trailers have been met with very different reactions as well. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s reveal trailer has received over 1,960,000 dislikes on YouTube (propelling it into the website’s top 5 most disliked videos of all time) and 330,000 likes. The Battlefield 1 Official Reveal Trailer on the other hand has received over 1,440,000 likes and only around 25,000 dislikes. So why are these AAA first person shooters garnering such massively different reactions?
One answer could be that some people are experiencing franchise burnout. Over the last 13 years there have been 7 Battlefield and 13 Call of Duty games. Annualising the Call of Duty franchise may well have brought in a lot of money for Activision, however it is inevitably shortening the life span of the series as well. Sales figures for the series have been decreasing since the franchise’s high point of Modern Warfare 3. Black Ops 3 sold a little better than Advanced Warfare in total sales figures, but it took a while as first week sales figures continued the downward trend. On the other hand, if you don’t include the Battlefield: Hardline spin-off, Battlefield has had increasing sales figures up to Battlefield 3 and although Battlefield 4 sold fewer copies, it was a negligible difference.
Choosing how often to release entries in a franchise is a difficult decision for publishers. At the end of the day, these companies want to make as much money as they can from their intellectual property. More games, mean more sales, however flood the market and sales will decrease. Call of Duty is a behemoth of a franchise; it is HUGE. Activision has three development studios dedicated to the franchise and more supporting the core studios. Each studio has three years to make their game before it gets released. For any series, having three years between entries would normally be enough to avoid franchise fatigue, however where these games are all branded as ‘Call of Duty’, the franchise has still lost its freshness. Even if the Call of Duty brand is starting to fade there are still millions of fans of the series, so what else could cause such dislike towards the new game?
Up until recently, both Call of Duty and Battlefield have taken place in similar time periods. They both started as World War II games and progressed to modern day, with a brief stop off in Vietnam. This time around though they’re set in very different time periods. Call of Duty is heading far into the future and into space with Infinite Warfare. Battlefield on the other hand is heading back in time to World War I. The issue here for Call of Duty is that there are already lots of futuristic space shooters, whereas World War I is a fairly untouched time period. The only game I can think of that takes place in WWI is Valiant Hearts and that’s a 2D puzzle adventure game. Call of Duty will have to go up against Halo, Destiny, Borderlands, Mass Effect, Titanfall, and many others. Infinite Warfare has to find a way to bring something new, which is tricky when dealing with a genre that is already saturated with quality games. I think that part of the reason the reaction to the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Reveal Trailer was met with such a negative reaction was that at first glance it doesn’t add anything particularly new to the franchise or genre. Battlefield 1 however looks like it will bring some unique gameplay and situations.
Another factor that has been compared between the two trailers are the visuals. While the graphics on the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare trailer are by no means poor, the quality of the Battlefield 1 visuals are jaw dropping. Admittedly, we have all been burned before by the level of graphics in game trailers but even with that in mind, the Battlefield 1 trailer looks impressive. As much as I can understand fans raving over that level of visual fidelity, I really don’t think the Call of Duty trailer deserves the level of criticism it has received over its graphics. The game still looks better than most Xbox One and PlayStation 4 games.
Even though I don’t believe the Infinite Warfare trailer deserves the level of ire it has received for the graphics, something I do agree warrants a considerable level of displeasure is the remaster of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. While I don’t share everyone’s distaste for remasters, I do think the bundling of the remaster exclusively with the ‘Legacy Edition’ is distasteful. Whether Activision sticks to their guns over the remaster only being available with the more expensive Legacy Editions, only time will tell. I would like to think that at some point in the future, they may release it as a downloadable title, but if they don’t, this exclusivity will surely boost sales.
By the time we get to October/November and actually get our hands on the new Call of Duty and Battlefield games, I’m sure a lot of people will have forgotten about these difference of opinions over the reveal trailers. I’m sure both games will go on to sell millions of copies. I do wonder though how many of the people have ‘disliked’ the Infinite Warfare trailer on YouTube purely as an anti-establishment vote, or because their friends did. While I do believe the Battlefield 1 trailer is more impressive, and I am now more interested in that game than Call of Duty, I will still buy Infinite Warfare as I am a sucker for a decent singleplayer campaign in a first person shooter. Here’s hoping that the conflict between these two mighty franchises just leads to better games on each side and that neither becomes a casualty of war.