By M.H. Williams
When Activision killed Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk, many wondered how long it would be until Callof Duty followed in the footsteps of those franchises. It seems some within Activision have wondered that as well. In some leaked internal memos obtained by Giant Bomb, Activision publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg answers the question for his employees.
When asked about why Call of Duty‘s success differs from the success Guitar Hero had, Hirshberg replied,”This is a great question and one we have thought about a lot. But there are several key differences between the two franchises worth considering. Guitar Hero quickly reached incredible heights, but then began a steady decline. Call of Duty, on the other hand, has steadily grown every single year of its seven-year existence.”
This is true, as each title since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has climbed higher and higher on NPD’s chart for the highest-grossing games of all-time.
“Guitar Hero was a new genre which had incredible appeal, but which had not stood the test of time. Call of Duty exists in a genre–first person shooters–that has shown remarkable staying power and wide appeal over a period of decades. Plus, Call of Duty has inspired a massive, persistent, online community of players, making it perhaps the ‘stickiest’ game of all time,” Hirshberg continued.
It is true that Guitar Hero became a difficult title to market– relying on high-cost extra peripherals — while Call of Duty is a first-person shooter, a solid genre since Wolfenstein 3D first hit PCs.
“If you really step back and dispassionately look at any measurement—sales, player engagement, hours of online play, performance of DLC—you can absolutely conclude that the potential for this franchise has never been greater,” he added. “In order to achieve this potential, we need to focus: on making games that constantly raise the quality bar; on staying ahead of the innovation curve; on surrounding the brand with a suite of services and an online community that makes our fans never want to leave. Entertainment franchises with staying power are rare. But Call of Duty shows all of the signs of being able to be one of them. It’s up to us.”
Hirshberg cites numerous Activision projects as ways to improve the company’s overall brand. These projects include items previously mentioned, including Bungie’s project, the Call of Duty Beachhead service, and the free-to-play Call of Duty for the Chinese market.
“Activision doesn’t always seem to get the credit it deserves in terms of innovation in my opinion, but there is no short supply of it, even in our narrower slate. As I said, when you look at this list of projects and the innovations embedded within them, it is a pipeline any company would kill for,” he said.
“Call of Duty is one of the biggest entertainment franchises in the world,” said Hirshberg. “We have assembled an unprecedented team of some of the finest development and business talent in the world to keep this game ahead of the curve.”
Will it last? Can Call of Duty continue to climb higher every year? And what will happen if the series falters?