Over the last few years it’s become pretty typical for some big news to come out in February, along with some of the first major releases of the year. Last year, it was the PS4 announcement and Dead Space 3 released. This year, it’s the news that Sledgehammer games is being added as a full developer on the Call of Duty franchise, meaning that there are three different developers working on the series now; and we get Thief in a few more weeks, along with a Titanfall beta.
I think there’s a few things we can infer from the Sledgehammer news as it relates to the direction of the series. First off, now it’s a three year dev cycle, I think the single player campaigns might get a bit of a boost – longer development time leads to longer, and more detailed campaigns. It’s a pretty typical argument against the Call of Duty games is that the story is an afterthought and tacked on; I tend to disagree with that, but I do think they could do more with them. Hopefully, the extra time for each developer (Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games) will give us bigger stories to play, but keep the trademark multiplayer intact. The other thing that I think we can infer is that this might be an indication that the development time on Xbox One/PS4 games is notably longer than the previous generation. Activision wouldn’t want to risk missing a year with no Call of Duty – especially this year with two major shooters already highly promoted and anticipated (Titanfall and Destiny) so by adding a third developer they ensure that the annual releases are still there, but there’s more time for development. One last thing that I think we can look at here is that I think this means that we might be getting a third sub-franchise within the Call of Duty umbrella. Infinity Ward has Ghosts, Treyarch has Black Ops, which I would bet we see at least one more entry of; but there’s no early indication what Sledgehammer Games will do. They did help out with Modern Warfare 3 back in 2011, so I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to think we see MW4, but it could also be a totally new IP. We just have to wait to see what they announce, which my guess is will happen this spring, probably before E3.
One last thing I want to get my thoughts out on is the Nintendo situation. They announced they expect to take a full year of losses again, and while that’s never good news, I don’t think they’re quite to the point of death yet. I still think the 3DS will do well at least for a few more years, but they need to offer something strong on the console front within the next two years I think to really ensure that they don’t go the way of Sega. I think their woes can really be traced to the obvious lack of third party support, which can be rectified with a strong console offering; but the real issue is that Nintendo’s classic “pillars” have been down of late. Mario is spread too thin, the last two Zelda titles were re-makes/re-imaginings and Metroid has been dead ever since Other M. Donkey Kong has never really been strong enough to carry a console and we won’t see Super Smash Bros. until later this year. There’s still plenty of life in Nintendo, but they really need to look at the current market and adjust their strategies to deal with the current make-up of gamers.