February 6, 2018
There are a couple of glaring issues with the Call of Duty franchise – one which has arose from cultural changes within the video game industry and another which has been a problem since multiplayer has existed.
Let’s start with the first issue – paid DLC.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was released in 2007 with sixteenbase(non-DLC) multiplayer maps, but as sequels progressed, the number of base multiplayer maps has been steadily decreasing. In fact, in their most recent release – Call of Duty: World War II – that number hit a record low of only ninebasemultiplayer maps.
In the graph below,which plots base maps, DLC maps, and units of Call of Duty games sold, it doesn’t seem like there’s a real trend or correlation between the three.
One might even assume that Activision is simply focusing more on the single player experience now because the campaign mode has become comparably better with their recent releases.
However, if we keep in mind that Call of Duty cycles between two developers (now three with the recent inclusion of Sledgehammer Games), and then break the data down by developer, we can see a very important finding.
||Units Sold (M)
||Units Sold (M)
||World at War
||Black Ops 2
||Black Ops 3
The number of DLC maps has increased significantly as base maps decreased.
But is this actually a huge problem? Is Activision just trying to squeeze as much money from us as possible?
The answer isn’t that straight-forward. If we look at the prices of AAA-title games, they have generally stayed at a stable $60 for decades – since the early 1990’s, in fact. But if we take into account inflation since 1990, AAA games should actually be worth almost $114 dollars now. This means that AAA games have technically halved in price, while costs for development (i.e. programmers, animators, voice actors, etc.) have technically doubled.
So, what does this mean in relation to the Call of Duty franchise? One of the key reasons that Call of Duty developers aren’t creating as many base maps is because all that extra time doesn’t produce enough extra revenue to create these games.In order to maintain the base $60 price tag and pay the employees a competitive salary, developers have resorted to DLC in order to make up for the ever-growing gap between the price of the standalone game and the costs of development.
But as long as publishers don’t abuse the DLC option like EA did with Star Wars: Battlefront, then DLC can actually be a positive experience for players. The consistent release of DLC maps keeps the multiplayer fresh. Just looking at the number of DLC maps since 2012, Activision has consistently pushed out 16 multiplayer DLC maps per game, along with zombie maps, special ops missions, equipment, and weapon DLCs.
And it looks like Activision, for the most part, has been doing a good job of keeping their player base happy with the number of base and DLC maps that they push out per game. There doesn’t seem to be a correlation between the number of basemaps developed versus the amount of Call of Duty games sold: the game with the most base maps and the game with the least base maps sold almost the same amount of copies.
However, with Call of Duty: World War II’s minimal number ofbase maps, there is a lot of criticism that Activision has gone too far. Not to mention the ever-increasing level of competition in the Video Game market which keeps prices down. Unfortunately, only time will tell if World War II DLC will be high enough quality and priced fairly in order to compensate for the limited number of base maps.
Another major issue is the fact that they still don’t have dedicated servers. As the fourth highest grossing franchise of all time at 270 million sales, it’s rather confusing as to why they’re still using P2P (peer-to-peer) servers – especially since P2P servers often result in host migrations, latency issues and unbalanced competitive advantages. Activision has publicly stated that they started using hybrid servers since Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, but that still comes with P2P issues because those who do not live near a dedicated server will be forced to endure P2P server problems and gamers in major cities report seeing multiple host migrations per day which cause them to question if P2P is used for most of the games and dedicated is just a small minority.
While they have recently announced that Call of Duty: World War II will be using dedicated servers, some players are still reporting latency issues, which leads me to suspect that they are still using hybrids. If Call of Duty wants to stay competitive against Battlefield and the ever-growing Battle Royale market – their biggest move would be to finally upgrade to dedicated servers. The franchise currently has one of the biggest player bases of all games with over 12 million players on PS4, 7.8 million players on Xbox, and 875,000 players on Steam actively playing World War II – Activision has quite a lot of the FPS market on the line to lose. Choose your f8te.
-Blogger Ivan Sheng