Thursday, 11 November 2010
As I'm sure a lot of you guys and your unfortunate girlfriends are aware, Call of Duty: Black Ops was released this past Tuesday. According to VGChartz, an estimated 7 million copies of the game were sold on day one, after following approximately 4.5 million pre-orders which would make it the fastest selling game of all-time. Last year, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 had set the record for fastest selling video game of all-time, so it's being trumped by yet another "Call of Duty" game.
In fact, Modern Warfare 2 became the biggest launch in the history of entertainment by raking in a not-so-modest $310 million in the US and UK alone. It's safe to say that the "Call of Duty" franchise has become more of a cultural phenomenon than anything else.
That's all fine and wine, but what is it that makes these games so popular? Why do sales rival those of the outrageously addicting Massively-Multiplayer RPG World of Warcraft? I think the answer is pretty simple, actually. Positive reinforcement.
Repeat that with me: POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. Lets step outside of the mediocre single-player campaign and focus on the real meat of the game, which is the online multiplayer. Now, one of the main reasons why casual gamers avoid masterpieces such as Shadow of the Colossus, Demon's Souls and Okami, is because they don't have the time or patience to learn to control and play the game. These games just aren't instantly gratifying, nor do they offer any form of online-play.
With the "Call of Duty" games, no matter what you do online, or how terrible of a player you are, you're being rewarded. You get perks for going on a death streak. You're awarded for completing challenges that involve you sucking and falling from 30 feet in the air. Hell, you're probably awarded for sampling your foot odor while running the game online. "Call of Duty" completely does away with the frustration of death in three significant ways:
- Perks for sucking harder than a starving prostitute
- Instant spawning
- The infamous killcam
The "killcam" will most likely rid you of the feeling that you were cheated or robbed because you can see exactly what happened right in front of your eyes. Instant spawning gets you right back into the action, instead of waiting five or ten seconds to respawn and avenge your death. As I already mentioned, being rewarded even when you're playing terribly provides an incentive to keep playing even if you're controller-challenged.
While I personally think that the perks system is completely unbalanced and broken, and that the graphics are dated, it won't matter to your casual gamer who buys the same "Madden" iterations with roster changes every year. I was actually showing a friend of mine Uncharted 2 a couple of months ago, playing it on a nice, calibrated HDTV using an HDMI cable, and he actually said that Modern Warfare 2 was better graphically.
I understand that art direction is subjective and that "Call of Duty" goes for a more "realistic" look, but it boggled my mind considering that they don't even run in HD resolutions.
They're just really fun (I personally disagree, but I'm probably in the minority), easy to learn, pick-up-and-play games that anyone can approach without feeling intimidated, because you're constantly being flashed with points and leveling up, even when you're doing horribly. There's even an audio-cue if you get excited by peculiar sounds.
The games are simple-minded, action-packed, fast-paced fun so like I said, anyone can get right into it. One of the reasons why people may enjoy it so much, even if they don't realize it, is because "Call of Duty" games run at 60 frames per second. Here's a visual comparison showing the difference between 15fps, 30fps and 60fps. Most video games run at 30fps, some with dips, others with a variable frame rate.
Infinity Ward, one of the developers (Treyarch being the other), now has such a large amount of mind share across households thanks for Call of Duty 4, that they can brand a steaming pile of alien turd-kill "Call of Duty" and it would sell millions. Lets not forget that, and the marketing! Activision can rest on its laurels.
Happy playing. :]