Video games have endured a long journey since the days of Pong. From graphics that have been enhanced so much that it looks as if you’re watching television to the ability to play online with friends down the road or on the other side of the world, video games have made epic trudges to become what they truly are today. Not only has video games become a classic form of entertainment, but it’s also become an incredibly lucrative market where games are making millions, or, in some cases, billions (A perfect example [Call of Duty: Black Ops] can be seen here).
Technology for video games are still pushing into new areas – the use for a controller may not be necessary in the future. Microsoft’s X-Box 360 Kinect proves this by allowing controller-free game play in an array games for the price tag of about $150 (plus tax). Other gaming systems, such as the Nintendo Wii , allows motion game play with the mere flick of a wrist in some instances, making gaming more personal, and physical, than ever.
But this op-ed article is primarily about the ” Call of Duty ” series, not other games and innovations. Gaming has changed, that’s clearly factual. No longer do gamers use joy sticks (well, most of the time), have to blow out cartridges if that hadn’t been played in a long time (I’m looking at you, older Nintendo consoles), and many gaming franchises focus primarily on graphics and advertising, rather than game quality and the story line. The ” Call of Duty ” series is a prime example of how “big business” has effected the true quality of games. And the major company that distributes this game, Activision, is known for squeezing every penny out of a game series by saturating the market with it. Yes, while it is a viable money-making tactic, it also shows the true colors of the gaming corporation – sales are all that matters.
I’ve always thought of video games, aside from a form of entertainment, as art. They can be abstract, like Tetris, beautifully designed, like Halo: Combat Evolved , and mind-provoking, like Chrono Cross. However, Activions’s games are much more superficial. While games like Call of Duty may be entertaining, they’re merely clones of each other with some additions thrown in. The feel and the basic concepts are all of the same, and, as of right now, they’re seven titles in – almost each one coming within a year of each others release date.
Guitar Hero , another game (for the most part [2006 and after]) was produced and published by Activision, was also completely saturated after they came out with so many games that people lost track. Yes, the basic idea of Guitar Hero was fantastic, it caught on like wildfire to casual and hardcore gamers alike, but it was killed after the market became flooded with Guitar Hero (and Rockband games didn’t help the cause, either). There was Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock , Guitar Hero: IV, and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. And please, don’t forget all of the expansions, too, ranging from Van Halen to The Beatles, and then the addition of Band Hero. This is just an example of what Activision has done to saturate an innovative video game market with only one series. Tony Hawk was another story, too, coming out with game after game until gamers couldn’t remember the names of of some of the titles within the series.
But Activision has money signs in their eyes right now, hitting the $1 billion mark on a single title. I mean, why should a company stop producing a game that’s bringing in so much money? It’s logical from a business standpoint, but they’re pushing the envelope. This year, at about the same time as they revealed the upcoming downloadable map pack for Black Ops, they stated that they’re are not one, but two new Call of Duty games in the works for next year. To top it all off, last year, for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the company decided to charge high prices for downloadable content. All of which included some maps, some that were even from the previous Modern Warfare, so little-to-no effort was obviously put in. But it sold, and it sold well. Now it’s the same this year – high-priced downloadable content for Black Ops (coming February 1st, 2011) where you get a handful of mediocre maps. Please, readers, don’t get me wrong – I think the idea of downloadable content is fantastic. However, the content should be worth buying. A single map being downloaded shouldn’t be worth $3 a pop – not even close. But people are paying for it, Activision knows gamers will pay for it, so they gouge the price, another way Activision is tainting the video game market. I understand that this is a business, but downloadable content should be at least remotely reasonably priced. Compare the upcoming Black Ops downloadable content to the new Battlefield: Bad Company 2 “Vietnam” content for a perfect example.
So is Activision “killing” video games? Money-wise? No. That’s one of their problems – they’re too good at making money. In fact, they’re so good that the money signs are blocking their vision when it comes to seeing that downloadable content is reasonably priced and is full of worthwhile content, listening to their customers and fanbase, and allowing a game in a series to play out before announcing a whole new title for that same series. Now, is Activision “killing” video games by flooding the market? From a traditional gamers standpoint – Absolutely. A game series should be created with acute creativity and a long playable lifespan. Activision, by creating Call of Duty after Call of Duty, Guitar Hero after Guitar Hero, and Tony Hawk after Tony Hawk, it truly decimated the feeling of the geninuity with each game that was released. It felt as if Activision was climbing through my wallet instead of trying to earn my money as a gamer. Games weren’t meant to be created like a newspaper on a printing press – they were meant to be created by deeply imaginative individuals and companies like a true piece of art.
I feel like many game creators these days are straying away from the ideology that games are, in fact, art, and are trying to make a quick buck. With an increasing amount of innovative and flashy technology it’s easier to sell – the perfect example being the Nintendo Wii , I’ve never been to a Best Buy or Game Stop during any other generations of consoles and seen so many garbage games that were merely created because of a consoles flashy technology. But that editorial is for another day.
Don’t fret gamers – there are still some companies out there that “get it”, and continue to work hard on games that conform to the gamers needs – as they should. Hopefully, one day, Activision will take note to this as well and stop saturating the market and work and tweak one title at a time.