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21/11/2011 Sam Kerr Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Evolution, Not RevolutionCall of Duty: ModernWarfare 3 – Evolution,Not Revolution
21/11/2011 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Evolution, Not RevolutionINTRO: What is this CoD:MW3 of which you speak? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ll probably have seen on your daily commute some posters with generic military men walking slowly towards the camera amongst all the other video game posters (also with generic military men walking slowly towards the camera). “I don’t see what the fuss is all about! It looks just like another shooter game to me!” you might cry. Well I’m here to tell you that Call of Duty is big…really big. In fact, the franchise is so big that it quite frankly puts more traditional entertainment mediums like movies to shame (more on this later). A generic Military Man So Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (MW3 from here on out, video gamenames really shouldn’t be such a pain to type) is basically a militaryFirst Person Shooter (FPS) with some role-playing game (RPG)elements, such as experience bars, because if there’s one thinggame designers have learnt, it’s that nothing brings greater So many beautiful bars! I cannot fill themsatisfaction to gamers than watching little bars fill up on screen. all!It’s also the latest addition in a long line of military shooters from Infinity Ward (owned by publishing giantActivision, whose notable franchises include World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero) and although it’s the thirdin the Modern Warfare series, it’s actually the eighth Call of Duty game, not including the multiple spinoffsdeveloped for handheld consoles.BACKGROUND: So how did Call of Duty come to dominate the FPS market?As with all the best stories, this one starts with a bit of delicious irony. The InfinityWard team started their careers by making the very brand name that they wouldspend years competing with.In 1999, development studio 2015 Inc. crafted Medal of Honor on the originalPlaystation console. Whilst working for Activision’s biggest competitor at the time,Electronic Arts, 2015 went on to make smash hit after smash hit in the world of Om nom nommilitary shooters. In 2002, the success of Medal of Honor spurred 22 members of 2015’s development team to form Infinity Ward and promptly allied themselves with Activision. By 2003, the newly formed studio released Call of Duty to a fanfare of rave reviews, awards and monetary success, eventually dethroning their previous goliath of a franchise atEA from their number 1 spot in the following years.The rest, of course, is history. Thrilled with Call of Duty’s success, Activision bought out the company,contracting Infinity Ward to continue working exclusively on Call of Duty titles. Call of Duty 2 was released in2005 and, like its predecessor, it received positive reviews. After allowing another Activision studio,
21/11/2011 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Evolution, Not RevolutionTreyarch, to develop Call of Duty 3, Infinity Ward returned to the franchise in a big way with Call of Duty 4:Modern Warfare. Boasting an innovative and immersive multiplayer, Call of Duty 4 became an instant classic. Two years later, Infinity Ward released Modern Warfare 2, which earned in excess of $1 billion in revenue and has been a thorn in EA’s side since by beating EA’s own modern military shooter franchise, Battlefield, with 70% of the FPS market. But things stopped looking so rosy when last year, Activision dismissed CEO Frank Zampella and company president Jason West, citing breach of contract and insubordination as reasons for employment termination. In retaliation, the pair started their own development company, Respawn Entertainment, and requested Another generic Military financial backing from EA of all places. Man, but subtly differentWest and Zampella were hardly alone, though. Of the 100 person team that developed Modern Warfare 2,38 of their most senior programmers, designers and writers defected from Infinity Ward to join Respawn.Considering that the majority of the creative minds behind two successful franchises have now left thecompany, with the release of MW3, all eyes have been on the remainder of Infinity Ward to see if they canstill live up to their reputation.FEATURES: So what’s new with this one?I feel Eurogamer’s Dan Whitehead sums this one up best;“Modern Warfare 3 is exactly the game you expect. Its conservative in every sense of the word, a paean tomilitary superiority which never ventures far beyond gameplay parameters that were set in stone in 2007.”Not the most flattering review, I’ll admit, but the general consensus has been that MW3 feels very much likeMW2, but with some improvements from the last iteration. MW2.5 if you will.The meat and bones of MW3 are found in what it’s best at; Multiplayer. Following the RPG trend of fillinglittle bars on screen, MW3 has done everything to make even the biggest noob (go go UrbanDictionary!) feellike they’re progressing. It seems that every weapon, accessory and perk that you unlock through levelling(surprise surprise) becomes better with every use. In addition to this, careful attention has been paid tobalancing the perk system, taming the excessively powerful kill streak bonuses that plagued MW2. Activision, taking a leaf out of World of Warcraft’s book, has also released their Call of Duty Elite service, which is basically a pay-to-play subscription service that Eurogamer calls a “stat-driven app with bonuses for those who sign up in advance for all future DLC”. For the low, low price of $49.99, Elite subscribers get access to post-match analytics to help them improve their competitive play, freedownloadable content for the year (usually worth $60), exclusive multiplayer game modes and co-operative
21/11/2011 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Evolution, Not Revolutionmissions, extra video storage for replay videos, daily tournaments and access to Elite TV (premium episodiccontent).It’s easy (and fair) to criticise MW3 for sticking so closely to a winning template, but like with BMW andPorsche, when the core template you’re using is this successful, well…maybe it’s worth being a littleconservative.MARKETING: Hmm, so it’s starting to sound really familiar now…This is hardly surprising considering the advertising dollars that must have been spent promoting the game.Here are some of the more interesting marketing partnerships that I’ve found: Turtle Beach Ear Force Headsets. RRP $390 (if you thought Monster Beats by Dre were expensive…) MW3 Official Sunglasses by GUNNAR. RRP $99
21/11/2011 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Evolution, Not Revolution Custom MW3 Jeep based on the Wrangler Rubicon. No, seriously. RRP $40,070 MW3 “Game Fuel” by Mountain DewBecause if there’s one thing twitchy gamerswho sit on couches all day need more of, it’s sugar
21/11/2011 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Evolution, Not Revolution That’s right, their very own goddamnPERFORMANCE: Enough talk already, how well did it sell? Expo in LA. Tickets: $150 each, over 6000 tickets sold6.5 million copies in 24 hours. Seriously... And that’s just figures for USA and UK too. Really, if you factor intrading hours of most retailers, that works out at roughly 200 copies sold per second.I’m sure that if any of you have been to a gaming conference recently, you’ll probably have seen a graph likethis before. But then again, what kind of report would this be without some pretty bars in suitably militarythemed colours? US & UK - Day 1 Sales 450 11 12 10 400 400 Copies/Tickets Sold (m) 360 10 350 310 300 8Sales ($m) 220 6.5 250 5.2 5.6 6 200 150 4 77 100 2 50 0 0 James Camerons Harry Potter and CoD: Modern CoD: Black Ops CoD: Modern Avatar the Deathly Warfare 2 Warfare 3 Hallows Book Sales ($m) Copies/Tickets Sold (m) Such pretty bars! Oooh!
21/11/2011 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Evolution, Not RevolutionOkay, so Avatar sold roughly 10 million tickets in its opening weekend, garnering around $77m (Thank youNATO, not the peace keeping NATO, the American Theatre NATO. Confusing, I know). In comparison, MW3sold 6.5 million copies for an estimated $400m, presumably whilst blowing raspberries at Avatar fanseverywhere. And people were queuing up for days outside their local retailers, faintly sweating at thethought of getting their moist hands on a pristine copy at the stroke of midnight. Even the last Harry Potterbook, after a whole decade of pestering from a generation of kids, only managed to make just over half ofwhat MW3 managed with a six month campaign. So yeah, MW3 is big…Lady Gaga big, which, if you considerthe money, drama, tears and lawsuits involved, isn’t a bad analogy at all.FINAL THOUGHTS:I’ll be honest here. I’ve never been a major fan of the series. There’s nothing wrong with the game itself, butsimilar to how I’m less than enamoured with iPhones, I can’t really rustle up my inner fan boy over MW3because it’s just more of the same (not that more of the same is a bad thing, especially if you love militaryshooters to the darkest deepest recesses of your soul and sleep with a rifle in your arms and a pistol underyour pillow).But despite all this, I’ve been following Infinity Ward’s performance over the years with great interest, as it’sundeniable the impact it’s had on the FPS market and the wider gaming industry in general. It’s a franchisethat’s been ingrained so closely into modern culture, to the point where I can have a perfectly ordinaryconversation with a friend on the Underground about headshots, kill ratios, and rifles without anyonearound me batting an eyelid (admittedly, most people enter a bovine state of stupor when entering theUnderground in London, which explains a lot about Londoners and their disinterested attitude in general).Action movies in a modern setting these days can’t seem tomake do without the odd nod or wink to Modern Warfareanymore, for example, Fast Five had a fifteen minute chasesequence that was lifted straight out of MW2’s Favelamission (I actually suspect that the only reason the film wasset in Brazil in the first place was because of MW2).So Modern Warfare 3 isn’t really breaking new ground, andquite rightly so, as it’s an evolution of the brand, rather than “Quick! MW3 is going on sale at midnight!”a revolution.Infinity Ward had a lot to live up to over the past year, and not treading on the toes of your fans is muchharder than it sounds. But their careful work seems to have paid off (a $400 million payoff no less), and thisjuggernaut of a brand shows no signs of slowing down.From your Gaming Gremlin,Sam Kerr