It was recently reported that Call of Duty continues to be a huge cash cow for Activision, generating $2.28 billion in the first quarter of 2021 alone on the heels of such releases like Black Ops: Cold War and WarZone. But it’s the business logic that follows that which may be a concern to some players.
Hey, money’s good. Big business is definitely pouring in with multiplayer games, as Epic Games’ Fortnite has proven with its $9 billion revenue thus far. (Keep in mind that’s from a single game.) That said, however, there is some concern with Activision’s recent comments surrounding that. Let’s take a closer look.
Too Much Business?
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision, recently spoke on an earnings call about the success of the first-person shooter franchise. “Call of Duty is the template we’re applying to our proven franchises, as well as our new potential franchises as we attempt to grow our audiences to a billion players.”
On the one hand, that means potential expansion for games in the Activision Blizzard fold, including Diablo II’s HD expansion, which is currently in the works at Vicarious Visions and slated for release sometime this year. With the right promotional push, it could be one of 2021’s biggest hits.
But then there’s also the flip side of that – expectation. Activision has made bold decisions in the past, but it’s developers that have paid the price as a result. For example, Neversoft Entertainment got folded into Infinity Ward after the company realized that Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater were no longer lightning in a bottle. Not to mention what happened to Bizarre Creations following the failures of both 007: Blood Stone and Blur, both highly entertaining games that failed to sell accordingly.
Now expectations could be pushed even higher – and that may be a problem if certain games end up failing. Not that Call of Duty will lose its thunder, but imagine if the company introduced another Destiny-style project that failed to meet expectations and audience numbers.
Despite its innovations, heads would roll.
Activision Needs To Continue To Diversify
While it’s good that Activision wants to continue to stoke the AAA game fires as we know it, it doesn’t have to be everything focusing on the bigger franchises that matter.
The company has a number of hits to its credit over the past few months, including a brand new Crash Bandicoot game that surprisingly lives up to the hype of the originals, It’s About Time! Not to mention
Vicarious Visions’ impressive work on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater remasters, which will finally debut on Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series S/X and PlayStation 5 on June 25th.
But here’s the thing. With Kotick’s quote, these franchises could be pushed by the wayside in favor of bigger, more multiplayer-oriented fare. That means putting the resources into the wrong kind of pool, instead of where they originally intended to work.
Case in point – Toys For Bob. The studio behind Skylanders worked its magic on It’s About Time!, which led to superb results with the final product. And what’s happening now? A good portion of that team will now work on Call of Duty: WarZone – probably the last thing it wanted to do.
Activision needs to be careful here. Putting the right teams on the wrong projects – and ones that could be siphoning money after the popularity wears off – could result in those rumored layoffs and, worse yet, closures. If the company wants to make money, hey, fine, that’s every company’s dream. But it shouldn’t forget where it came from – the humble beginnings on the Atari 2600 when it built its library based on innovative ideas.
Granted, Call of Duty will always be Call of Duty, and Sledgehammer Games has a lot of effort going into this year’s edition. But Activision should also keep its fans happy in other areas, particularly with Pro Skater and other favorites. Not to mention that a return to Guitar Hero wouldn’t be the worst thing, considering how much older games and accessories are selling for nowadays. There’s strong demand there.
Think about it, Activision. Don’t just make it about the cash cow – take care of the whole farm.
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