According to Steam Spy’s yearly Steam data analysis, the top 25 selling games of 2016 included Indie titles like Stardew Valley and Rust, but Call of Duty was nowhere to be found.
Call of Duty is a first-person shooter franchise known for selling incredibly well despite being reviewed lower on average by less successful titles of the same genre. According to Steam Spy, this year’s entry in the series, Infinite Warfare, sold worse than other first-person shooters Overwatch and Battlefield One, two shooters which arent even sold on steam.
Call of Duty: Inifinite Warfare only sold 250 thousand copies on Steam, one sixth the amount its predecessor Black Ops 3 sold. Black Ops 3 only sold 1.55 million copies, less than half of what Black Ops 2 sold. Additionally, Black Ops 3 has had almost double the amount of players daily every day for the past week compared to Infinite Warfare.
SuperData research for the year estimates PC gaming was highly successful this year, bringing in approximately 34 billion dollars in profits in 2016 citing League of Legends and Overwatch as massive contributers—something incredible seeing as the playable media industry was valued at 74 billion dollars in 2015.
So the question is, how much did Call of Duty Infinite Warfare sell and is it really that bad? According to a CNBC report in December, NPD sell-through data (NPD is a market research firm) provided by two industry analysts confirmed a 50% drop in the game’s physical sales.
How much is 50%? We know it means millions of sales less than expected, but its impossible for us to know for sure as Activision stopped telling anyone how much their games sold after the abysmal drop in sales from Call of Duty: Ghosts, a game so bad that Game Informer gave it their lowest possible score for a Call of Duty game: an 8, calling the game “polished” and “fun.”
It can be confidently said that Infinite Warfare had a massive budget since it featured superstars Kit Harington of Game of Thrones fame and former UFC Featherweight champion Conor McGregor. If the budget was high and sales were low, that would be an enormous hit to the budget of future Call of Duty games which in turn may mean cost-effective cuts to the series’ core features and thus a lower likelihood to sell.
Its also important to note that Modern Warfare Remastered was bundled with Infinite Warfare and could only be purchased in the special edition which cost 80 dollars—something internet commenters and critics raved about.
Another mistake is PC sales was how Activision almost deliberately split the PC player base by not allowing people who purchased the game on Steam or the Windows store to play with each other. This became such a huge issue that Windows had to give mass refunds because so few people on the Windows store could find other players in multiplayer.
If Call of Duty continues to decline in sales in following titles, Activision will either have to put the series on hiatus due to profit loss, or restructure its yearly release schedule to accommodate for bringing the game back into the mainstream.
This may be entirely possible as 2017's entry in the series would have begun production in late 2014 or early 2015 by Sledgehammer studios who made 2014's Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. This is because Call of Duty is made by 3 development studios on a 3 year schedule each so each company can release a game in the franchise each year.
If Sledgehammer Studios began production on a title in 2014, that would mean they would only have had a year and a half to switch subjects from a future setting to something more grounded in reality despite the series push towards more arcade-shooter like gameplay.
A large part of Infinite Warfare’s criticism stemmed from its uninspired multiplayer but even more frustration came from the game’s setting which allowed its reveal trailer to amass 3.4 million dislikes, breaking the record for most disliked video on all of Youtube, beating the infamous “Friday” by Rebbecca Black by more than a million dislikes.
So one of two things will happen with Call of Duty as a franchise this year: either Sledgehammer will save the franchise by providing a breath of new air to the game’s multiplayer through EXTREME changes to the game’s base formula, or Activision will have to start restructuring the series’ development as a whole to prevent the massive profit loss they’re experiencing.
What do you think will happen?
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