Call of Duty MMO? Half a billion to beat WoW? Ludicrous!

/facepalm, really.

You know that feeling of nastiness that comes when you burp up some acid in to your throat? I have that right now. I also had it back when the CEO of Activision said it would take over half a billion dollars to make a game capable of taking on World of Warcraft. I really don’t know where to begin addressing how ridiculous that statement sounds. I have thoughts racing through my mind right now that could lead to my writing a book, but I’ll simplify it.

  • Stop trying to make games to compete with or take on WoW. Just make great games!
  • Give me half a billion dollars and I’ll prove you wrong.

I’ll leave well enough alone on that subject.

Today I read that the Activision CEO has once again opened his mouth and this time the words “Call of Duty”, “MMO”, “Guitar Hero”, and “Blizzard” came out. The reason for the acid… it burns… Activision CEO, Bobby Kotick, plans to use Blizzard’s “institutional expertise” to expand their Guitar Hero franchise. He also had this to say about Call of Duty:

“When you think about other properties that we own and control like Call of Duty, and what would be the natural evolution of a property like Call of Duty into a massively multiplayer environment…how do you monetize that?” – Activsion CEO, Bobby Kotick.

The natural evolution of Call of Duty is not a MMO! You want to monetize more on COD’s natural evolution? Stick with what millions love and make your FPS games better. Why do corporate moguls think that all roads lead to massively multiplayer online games? Sure, you’ll make a lot of money, but you could do that plenty of ways. I wish Activision were alone in their thinking, but DICE is taking Battlefield in a similar direction. It’s only the beginning.

I can see it now…

A free to play massively multiplayer micro-transaction based Guitar Hero game in a World War II setting with Arthas playing a M16 6 string to Don’t Fear the Reaper while calling in airstrikes over Ironforge… god help us…

It’s the future.

Arthas Guitar Hero

  • What breaks my heart is that way it seems like Activision is now controlling Blizzard. I had hoped that the were in some sort of mutial partnership. Blizzard is a far, far, far superior and quality game maker than Activision and its a damn shame to see them running the show because they have more money to throw.

    I only pray Blizzard can wade through all of this and still come out on top with high quality games that we’re used to.

  • Actually, an MMO does seem like a pretty natural direction for the Call of Duty series to go. CoD:4 introduced character development and increased the number of simultaneous players, right? What would be bad about Call of Duty in an Axis-vs-Allies persistent world?

    Given, if they tried to mimick traditional MMOs in most regards, they’d be idiots. But there’s nothing strange about them simply adding a persistent world (war) to the way CoD:4 is already set up.

    The half-billion dollars statement is still lunacy, though.

  • I see nothing wrong with a MMOFPS, but to evolve such a loved and well received series like CoD is a bad decision. It’s also a bad decision to take the Battlefield series in a completely different direction for the same reasons.

    All roads do not lead to MMO or Free-to-play business models. That’s my firm belief.

  • Wow… Just wow… Why does everything this guy say have more to do with making money and less to do with making any game? Know the old addage “Build it and they will come.”? In this case, the “it” is a great game. But CEO’s don’t see that, they want the money. As I think of all the MMOs out there it seems the ones that succeed are the ones that are based on the fantasy genre. Why? Not totally sure what the genre has that others don’t but could be the gear, the lore, the fantasy, the infinite list of open possibilities, etc. After all, it is fantasy so anything is possible. I would think CoD would have to stay shackled to the WW genre. Thinking of what a CoD MMO would look like, I don’t think it could possibly live up to an EQ, FF (gulp), LotR or WoW. I could see it more like a PotBS. A very niche game with area contention but what else would you do for fun but PvP? Crafting? Yeah, I can see a CoD “army man” planting bushes in a field. Don’t get me wrong, CoD is a great game. But I think it makes a much better “OG” than it does an “MMO”. Anyway, back to the CEO’s comments: Wow… just wow…

  • Well, Square (was it Square?) managed to “progress” their Final Fantasy series into a somewhat successful MMORPG that stands alone from the rest of the series. I think it could be done without affecting the CoD series too badly…

    There’s also another way to hybridize the MMO income model to traditional video games. Take for instance, Team Fortress 2 in the Steam network.

    All you really need to do is:

    1) Make a game and charge people $XX.XX to play it

    2) Dedicate a smallish team to produce quarterly update patches introducing new content, bug fixes, etc. just like traditional MMORPGs do and charge people $XX.XX / 4 per update

    3) Continue to support your game community and earn additional cash every quarter.

    4) If people quit buying your updates re-evaluate your situation… are people not buying the updates because they suck or because they’ve moved on to something better?

    So many traditional console or PC games come out as one-shots and the developers fail to offer continued support. One would imagine you could make these quarterly patches a lucrative business model with the right balance of investment vs. return.

  • @Snafzg

    Yep, it was Square Enix. FFXI was successful because its fantasy based (and a great game btw). You could have an alien pop out of the sky to defeat, you can have dragons, demons, monsters, humans, anything. You can do anything because its fantasy. Gear, actions, and the look of everything can be just as varied. I truely believe the “varied” is what makes a good MMO because it appeals to everyone. I just don’t see how CoD can do anything other than work with all aspects of the war genre which isn’t so broad. That’s why I feel its more like PotBS. You have a ship, you have trade, you have PvP. How far can you take it and still stay in the pirate genre?

    It’s quite funny how these game studios all seem to be saying, “We have a good game, lets go online and call it an MMO.”

  • I agree with Phil that FFXI was doable because it was a fantasy rpg setting to begin with. Taking the realism and “serious” nature of CoD (which hasn’t progressed beyond modern day) and making a mmo would be difficult – doable – but difficult. And it would be departing greatly from their current model to such a degree that a great majority of the people playing CoD games wouldn’t be interested.

    To illustrate my point, the new Battlefield game looks downright dumb to me. BF2142 was a great step in the evolution of the BF series. Taking the ideas of this new Battlefield Heroes game (Ideas like the persistent struggle) and adding them to the original model would be an incredible experience. But no, they want to try their “business model” wacky way of thinking. Such a waste.

  • @Keen: there is a conventional Battlefield 3 sequel in development in parallel with the Battlefield Heroes game and the console Bad Company game. They’re diversifying the franchise, not diverting it wholesale down the Wii/TF2 road.

    I doubt that MMOFPSs will conform to the existing MUD/MMORPG conventions. The opening generations of such games are much more likely to simply be an extended lobby system, instanced maps, with a regional factional overmap, and short-term cyclic resets. Ie, pretty much the current game BF2/2142 mechanics with some logic about the map queue, and score bonuses for the winning faction.

    Moving an FPS to a fully persistent non-instanced world requires the solving of Horrible Scaling Issues and would, as you say, probably change the game experience into something the potential target audience would not be interested in playing.

  • One would hope that parallel development is really all they’re after, but listening to their CEO’s talk about “a new way of gaming” and the profit obtainable by monetizing such a “larger market” is really quite troubling. I’ll try and have faith in the Battlefield franchise.

    The CoD franchise though worries me even more. The CEO is talking about the game’s natural evolution. Talking about evolving a series in to something else without ever mentioning parallel development – ugh.

  • Sticking with the modern, realistic approach in an MMOFPS would definitely be tough to do in terms of bosses and such, but I think you could easily dip into the sci-fi pool for ideas.

    Alien invasions, machine AI, nuclear experiments gone wrong… Those concepts aren’t necessarily as fantastical as dragons, ghoulies, and golems.

    The mechanics would be tougher to work out. I don’t think you could really follow the traditional MMORPG progression but you could mimic aspects of it, like in Oblivion.

  • @Snafzg: only if they try to import PvE MMORPG concepts into an FPS framework. The expectations that online FPSs will be comprehensively PvP and fast-paced would make levering the current painful NPC PvE mechanics into an FPS almost laughable. Respawn 30 times, as your squad shoot megamech Zed with their rocket launchers!

    Consider – what is a BF2142 Titan assault but a climactic end-of-level boss battle? No NPCs, no PvE, just clever scenarios for the players to interact within.

  • Agreed, the PvE elements would be difficult or nearly impossible to implement but from what I remember of the Rainbow Six and more recent Metal Gear games, it might be doable.

    I don’t really think a level-up approach would work, but refining a bit of your characters skills and unlocking new gear is still possible. The main thing that will improve as you play is YOUR actual skill at the game, just like in most FPS’.

    I’m not saying an MMOFPS based on CoD would be easy. Obviously it isn’t since we’ve yet to see a successful MMOFPS on the market.