Call of Duty: How It's Like The NFL

Activision Publishing boss Eric Hirshberg explains how Call of Duty remains popular every single year

Call of Duty just had yet another record-breaking year in 2011, and to this day remains one of the top played franchises on Xbox Live, but can Activision keep it up? Isn't there some risk of franchise fatigue? Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg says no.

"There's a unique behavior for gamers related to that game... it has this incredibly long tail and people play it all year round and that has forced, or enabled, the company to change the way we look at it because, to our players, it's not an annual retail release," Hirshberg told us recently.

From Activision's viewpoint, Call of Duty has evolved into a full-fledged service and, much like a sports league, fans will keep coming back with great interest for each season.

"It's a year-round activity. So, if you look at it like an annual retail release, by those standards, it's easy to get nervous. But if you look at it through a different lens; if you look at it like, the NFL happens every year and people like it every year and they obsess over it every year and they come back for more every year and I think that it's an entertainment relationship that's pretty unique in the gaming space," he continued.


With a steady flow of DLC and a social network supporting the huge brand in Call of Duty Elite, Activision is perhaps more bullish on Call of Duty now than ever before.

"Let me also say that you can't find a metric that would indicate that it's fatiguing or that there are signs of slowing," said Hirshberg. "The concurrency of players is higher than ever and not only that, it's across several games. I think that the top three most played games on Xbox Live are the last three Call of Duty games, which brings me to my second point, which is, what we're trying to do is make it more of a diversified business within itself. There are now multi-prongs and multi ways to interact with the franchise all under one umbrella."

Essentially, all the negative connotations associated with an annual release schedule simply don't apply to Call of Duty, if you ask Hirshberg.

"That's the conventional wisdom in the gaming industry. I get asked that question a lot," he said of the negative reactions towards annual releases. "It's just not reflective of what our gamers clearly want. If you start from that place, of looking at what gamers want and what their behavior would suggest- they want more DLC, they want more new gameplay experiences. And so, we're starting with that and building it out. We're not starting with the conventional wisdom of the industry and going in."

With yet another Call of Duty planned for later this year, we'll get to see if Activision can once again put itself in the record books.

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Latest comments (8)

Jamie Read 3D Artist, Neon Play Ltd8 years ago
I have fatigue from this franchise, it just plain bores me now. I enjoyed playing the original Modern Warfare and World At War, but now it has just become a case of pumping out a new CoD title each year that is the exact. Same. Thing.....Zzzzzzzzzzzzz
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
Well, what he says can kind of make sense - people keep on buying it, so why not keep on producing it?

Part of the problem with what he's saying is that there's no technological improvement - a lot people have said that MW3 looks worse than MW2. Worse textures, worse post-processing. Aging tech is a definite problem with the yearly cycle, but then, that's only relevant on PC. The 360 is itself aging tech, so people aren't really going to complain about that right now, but what if they're still using the same engine come the next-gen? Unlikely, but still, that's a definite point at which the yearly cycle starts to hurt your core audience (unless you devote an entire team to developing a new CoD on a new engine in the background). Follow a parallell train of thought, and you start to wonder if they'll keep on producing PC versions of CoD - their core audience is console, the PC market notices technological deficiencies more, and it must've stung when Steam user data said that there were more people playing Skyrim than MW3.

Also, charging full-price for a different campaign and a slightly tweaked multiplayer is only going to last so long. I wouldn't like to say how many of the CoD players are actually just using their mom's money/pocket money to buy another regurgitation of the same series, and when those players age out, they're probably going to be more careful with their money, or even drop the series entirely.
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Barry Williams8 years ago
I myself is bored of CoD,i loved CoD 4 that was a good step into modern guns away from a world war setting,then along came MW2 with a few new features,bigger maps and better perks and a good selection of guns. Now here is MW3,its just the same in my eyes (MW2.5) they could quite easily of just brought out what they have added in DLC. I've now moved to a far better paced,tactically better game,of course im talking about Battlefield 3. No more will i waste my hard earned money on another CoD title.

Activision really do need to have a look at what the next one will be like,if just another MW clone then im staying with DICE and EA with this one
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Show all comments (8)
It had already been said many times but I'm extremely inerested to see how Activision(/Blizzard) will move on when one of its golden goose will die from disentery. Even WoW shows signs of fatigue.
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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart8 years ago
This website would be better if you could filter out Student comments so they don't appear
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Jamie Read 3D Artist, Neon Play Ltd8 years ago
Students have opinions too though, so a filter would be a little counter-productive.
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Kaneda Maskell na 8 years ago
NFL is so boring..and so is cod :)
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Ian Brown IT Developer / IT Infrastructure 8 years ago
COD has really worn itself out in my opinion. I have to say after playing BF3 so much and going round to a friends house to have him put on MW3 was just simply painful. It looked terribly dated, but then it won't stop kids playing it as all the kids at school are playing it year in year out. It reminds me of Pokemon (which at the time i thought was dreadful) but still shifted millions of units each year with a new colour and a handful of new monsters as the older kids got bored and the new kids got interested. The cycle repeats.
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