Modern Warfare Remastered is enjoying a "Mostly Negative" review score on Steam only 5 days after its standalone PC launch. The general mood towards Activision and the series is trending towards overall displeasure. Will this affect the sale of Call of Duty: WW2?
Ever since its announcement, Modern Warfare Remastered has harvested quite a lot of ire from its fanbase. The remaster was gated behind a Legacy Edition of the critically panned Infinite Warfare at first, then announced as a standalone release for consoles, only to still be fuzzy on whether you need to own Infinite Warfare to play it, and has now made its way onto Steam, only to be embraced by a torrent of negative user reviews.
Steam users generally agree that the campaign is as good as it was with the original release from 2007, with some graphical improvements but no FOV slider - nothing really significant or worth the £35 price of admission.
Some of the reviews seem to be motivated by a gut feeling rather than well structured arguments or reasoning, and these can be quite graphic at times.
Most of the reviews cite grievances related to the mess Activision seems to have made of multiplayer - no dedicated servers, no mods, rampant hacking, a nearly non-existent playerbase, a beefy price tag, paid DLC that used to be free, and a microtransaction crate/loot scheme.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has launched to a resounding meh from reviewers and players alike, and as per usual the PC version of that entry in the series has received a punier average review score than its console counterparts.
There was also that little bit of controversy surrounding the Infinite Warfare reveal trailer which has managed to accumulate an impressive 3,5 million dislikes at the time of writing.
During this time, Activision has decided that it would be a good idea to turn Call of Duty into a Marvel-style cinematic universe, and it looks like a mobile game for the franchise has been commissioned and is being made by Candy Crush developer King.
At first it seemed like Activision is trying to branch out with the series as a means of damage control, but after second thoughts this isn't really the likeliest of scenarios. During all the fan-rage and criticism, which is mostly coming from the PC crowd, Call of Duty has remained quite a profitable game series, usually topping sales charts on release. According to US based analyst group NPD, Call of Duty has topped December software sales charts for the 9th consecutive year in 2016.
This year, Call of Duty: WW2 will launch in the by now almost traditional November release window, to less competition than usual. There will be no Battlefield entry coming from EA and DICE, instead Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is slated for a November release - a game whose predecessor was critically panned due to a lack of content and convoluted DLC scheme. There doesn't seem to be much opposition rallied against Call of Duty's shot at a 10th consecutive year on the throne of pre-Christmas game sales.
What are the odds of Call of Duty going through a Watch Dogs kind of scenario in 2017? Similar to the recent Modern/Infinite Warfare situation, Watch Dogs sold well but was an overwhelming disapointment, especially for PC players. Consequently, Watch Dogs 2 sold less than half the number of copies its predecessor did. PC customers got burned, and for once, they didn't entirely forget the perceived betrayal as soon as the marketing machine for the sequel started heating up.
If the treatment of Modern Warfar Remastered is anything to go by, Activision doesn't really care too much about how the PC market will respond to a new Call of Duty entry, especially with Destiny 2 coming to the platform in the same year. Much in the same way EA covered as many bases as possible by launching Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1 almost back to back, the biggest western game publisher has little to fear with such an approach. Even if one of its major projects fails, it will most likely break even, and if not - its counterpart should more than compensate for any potential financial underperformance.
Call of Duty: WW2 has another thing going for it, something that companies like Nintendo have learned to exploit near perfectly - nostalgia. Call of Duty's foundations lie in a World War 2 setting, and a lot of people will consider a £45 price tag and whatever mistreatment Activision throws at them a more than acceptable trade off for potentially reliving some of the memories they had with the first game in the series from back in 2003.
AAA video game publishing has become a lot like Hollywood in many regards. Just like the Transformers movies or even the Marvel cinematic universe it aims to mirror, the Call of Duty franchise has become synonymous with pandering, shallow spectacle, and lowest common denominator entertainment - in spite of or maybe exactly because of this, it keeps on selling. It would be a minor miracle if Call of Duty: WW2 somehow managed to fail on the sales front, but as per usual, the best way to mitigate the effects of a miracle is a formidable marketing budget.
Unless Call of Duty: WW2 releases bundled with a DLC scheme that somehow causes nosebleeds every time a player ignores a microtransaction prompt, it will sell, a lot. And if doesn't, well, there is always next year.