Ever since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare launched the series into the stratosphere, the franchise’s annual releases have players with itchy trigger fingers throwing their money at Activision. Love it or hate it, Call of Duty sells. Having passed 250 million lifetime sales back in January, the franchise didn’t look to be showing any signs of slowing down. That remained true, until the recent reception of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s launch trailer was far from glowing. It’s been a rough reveal for the company, one that has players questioning whether the franchise will run out of steam and be forced to hang its hat in the near future.
The trailer for Infinite Warfare is currently sitting on a hefty 1.7 million dislikes. The comments section is flooded with disgruntled fans, unhappy that the series renowned for shooting action taking place in the past, modern, and near-future has gone far off into the future. We’ve seen exo suits and fighting drones before, but nothing quite as far-fetched as spaceship dogfights and shooting at enemies as we float our way through space. It’s a setting that takes the series in the complete opposite direction of fan hopes. It’s difficult to put this huge influx of dislikes down to a vocal minority either, considering the scale. After all, a similar spur of discontent bombarded the Black Ops 2 reveal trailer back in 2012, and even that only hit 60,268 dislikes.
Despite the difference of over 1.6 million dislikes between the two reveal trailers, Activision’s CEO, Eric Hirshberg, claims that Infinite Warfare’s backlash is nothing to be worried about, comparing it to the Black Ops 2 reveal. “We’ve seen this in the franchise before. The reveal trailer for Black Ops 2, which took the franchise into the future for the first time, had the most dislikes of any reveal trailer we had ever made at that time. And that went on to become our most successful game ever,” he said during an earnings call last week.
Hirshberg may be right to appear so calm. Black Ops 2 went on to sell 24.2 million copies and became the third highest selling game in the franchise. On the other hand, Call of Duty: Ghosts’ reveal trailer back in 2013 was well received, but went on to become the worst selling title of the series in recent years. First impressions may stick with players for a while, but they don’t seem to have a guaranteed correlation with sales figures, at least when the Call of Duty franchise is involved.
Taking a look at sales figures for each game since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare paints an interesting picture. Since the dizzying heights of Modern Warfare 3, and surprisingly, the futuristic Black Ops 2, the franchise has seen pretty huge declines in post-release sales. That is, up until Black Ops 3. While still far off the extraordinary sales figures of Modern Warfare 3 and Black Ops 2, Black Ops 3 saw the first incline in four-week sales figures in a long while. That’s not the kind of turn-around you would expect from a dying series.
Of course, these figures only paint a short-term picture past launch, but they don’t seem to suggest that Call of Duty is dying. In fact, regardless of declining sales figures, Call of Duty has been the best selling game (except in 2013 when it came second to GTA V) since 2009. This looks less like the history of a franchise destined to die out soon, and more that of a titan in the middle of its reign.
Sales can only continue so long as the franchise remains relevant, however, and while the futuristic setting may not be the most popular way to ensure this, it may not be the only way Infinity Ward is looking to keep things fresh.