When it comes to which genre of video game is the most universally profitable, the uncontested king is the first-person shooter (FPS). The genre was initially popularized by the mega hit Wolfenstein 3D in 1992 and it has since expanded into an unfathomable list of science fiction and modern titles. One of the biggest appeals of an FPS game is that they’re not entirely complicated to play if you’re a beginner in the genre. It really all boils down to pointing and shooting with accuracy while simultaneously making sure that you aren’t killed in the process. However, it takes an immense amount of skill to actually excel with games such as these, giving it a lasting appeal to hardcore gamers as well. Since GoldenEye 007 in 1997, multiplayer has become an important factor in the genre’s popularity as well.
Over the past several years there have been some real classics, especially those mentioned above, but only a select few franchises have been able to reach the upper echelon of the gaming universe. If you’re looking for a science fiction FPS, the Halo franchise is your best bet, but if you’re looking for something modernized, Call of Duty is the current champion. Call of Duty has even become one of the most popular franchises ever in the history of video games. Call of Duty: Ghosts came out on November 5th and is the latest installment in this long running franchise, which is why this classic shooter is on my mind this week.
Call of Duty first released in 2003 on the PC and it thrust the player right into the thick of World War II. The Medal of Honor series had already made itself popular using WWII as a backdrop so Call of Duty immediately wanted to stand out on its own. In order to do this, Call of Duty decided to go for a more realistic approach to their focus on WWII. Instead of only playing as an American soldier, you played as an American, British, and Soviet soldier at varying times. This allowed you to experience the fight from multiple fronts to really immerse yourself in the setting. The idea of you being the “lone wolf” is thrown out the window as well, for the most part. A lot of the game has you march into battle with computer controlled allies like other infantrymen or tanks, which was actually relatively new at the time. Call of Duty was a massive hit and the two following numbered titles, which came out in 2005 and 2006 respectfully, also featured WWII to immense success.
It wasn’t until the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007 that this franchise reached the cultural significance we now give it today. Taking a giant leap forward from the WWII setting heavily featured in the past, Modern Warfare brought the series to the present day. Settings included the Bering Strait, Pripyat, Ukraine, and a village in Azerbaijan, among others. The player controls six total characters during the campaign with Sergeant John “Soap” MacTavish of the British Special Air Service taking most of the spotlight. Modern Warfare was showered with praise and awards mostly because of the intense game play, high levels of immersion, and absolutely stunning graphics. The campaign was lauded, which is rare for a shooter, and the multiplayer mode was an unbelievable success. While the game was available across consoles, it really found its home on Microsoft’s Xbox 360. From Modern Warfare onward, Call of Duty became the franchise to beat, leaving former rival Medal of Honor in the dust and giving other franchises like Battlefield a real run for their money.
Now you’re probably wondering, is Call of Duty really this popular? Surely it’s just another franchise already in an endless sea of titles right? That’s where you’re wrong. Before Ghosts hit the shelves Activision decided to share a few little statistics about their little title that could. Now what I’m about to say might come as a shock but when you really think about it, they make sense in their own crazy way. For starters, the amount of hours played on Call of Duty overall is 25 BILLION hours. That equals 2.85 million years, which is actually longer than humans have been alive. Yes, Call of Duty has now beaten actual human existence. 100 million people across the globe have played this franchise as well giving it a population greater than countries like Germany and Italy. 1900 combined years are played DAILY on Call of Duty alone. The rest of these facts can be found online but these are just three of the most ridiculous.
What’s probably one of the more interesting qualities of Call of Duty’s immense popularity is how much of its core audience is those who wouldn’t identity as hardcore gamers. So many people own the Xbox 360 due to its initial lower price and Call of Duty games are always the staple of their library. These people play Call of Duty online non-stop and yet wouldn’t be caught dead going to places like E3 or playing a role playing game. No matter who you are, the games are simply fun to play with people you do or do not know. In college especially, Call of Duty has become one of those stereotyped “bro games” along with Madden that can always be found in houses popularized by party going students. Yet as I mentioned earlier, these games also appeal to the hardcore FPS lovers for being extremely realistic, and at times exaggerated, representations of modern war. It has a broad market appeal unlike any other.
I love first person shooters, but my own personal history with Call of Duty is embarrassingly slim. I’ve played the PC games at computer camps and I’ve played most of the current modern titles, but the only one I’ve actually owned was Modern Warfare 2. I’ve enjoyed my time with the games and have found them to be absolutely fantastic but ended up going down the Battlefield path so I can play it with some close friends on the PlayStation 3. It amazes me how despite both franchises coming out on both consoles, Call of Duty has become the Xbox game and Battlefield has made its home on PlayStation. Both games are undeniably fantastic but Call of Duty is clearly the more popular of the two.
Current reviews of Ghosts give it very high marks that, despite not being as high as past releases, are still outstanding when you think about how long this series has been around. But let’s be honest here, do reviews even matter for a franchise like this? The Call of Duty fanbase is so solid and loyal that even a poorly reviewed game would get picked up in a heartbeat. Yet thankfully for the fans Call of Duty games are rarely ever average or below, including some of the handheld titles. Ghosts is one of the most anticipated games of the year and is even a launch title on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Based on this history though, are you really surprised? Expect this franchise to keep making bank and breaking records for many years to come.