As we reported last November, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 isn't quite the record-breaking success its predecessors were. You'd have to be a raving idiot to conclude that the franchise is on the rocks - it's still far and away the industry's best-selling shooter, and that modest sales slippage could be attributed to slowing sales across the board - but analysts agree that Activision must work harder to retain pre-eminence in the face of stiff competition from the likes of EA's Battlefield.
"The CoD franchise is at or near its peak annual sales potential, and we'll likely see sales stabilise," Michael Pachter of investment firm Wedbush Securities told OXM, as part of a feature on the evolution of shooter design you'll find in issue 96 - a Splinter Cell special that's on shelves now. "Battlefield 4's launching next autumn and new consoles are coming out, so this is likely to affect sales."
EEDAR's Jesse Divnich sang a similar tune. "While momentum is on CoD's side, the opportunity to dethrone a market leader is highest as consumers transition cycles." Nonetheless, the ball is Call of Duty's to drop. "We have faith CoD can hold its market dominance," Divnich continued, "but EA will push to solidify Battlefield as the premiere shooter franchise as we transition to new consoles."
"It's unlikely CoD will drop back to Earth in the next few years, as the online multiplayer audience and community is so strong," Pachter went on. "Activision could always make a mistake, but the franchise is so important to it that a serious error is unlikely. The biggest risk is consumer fatigue - but a few years ago CoD was a WWII shooter, and it morphed into Modern Warfare, then Black Ops. They will work hard to keep it fresh."
We're not known for picking up analyst comment (see also: "educated guesswork"), but in this case I thought it worth making the exception. GameStop CEO J Paul Raines has already laid eyes on the next Battlefield, which will launch sometime this year or the next (depending on whether you read "next year" as "next fiscal year"). "Got to see Battlefield 4 today and all I can say is wow," he tweeted. "Thanks EA for the sneak peek. Can't wait for you all to see it."
Will Call of Duty pull off another Modern-Warfare-style refresh to stay ahead? We're looking forward to bringing you more.