Call of Differentiation Part 2: Missed Connections

Modern Warfare 2
A few months ago I wrote about the unfortunate confusion over the Modern Warfare and Call of Duty brands. Infinity Ward had just conceded to assuming the Call of Duty label for their upcoming blockbuster Modern Warfare 2, and they and Activision were ramping up for a massive marketing campaign. I showed how Modern Warfare 2 might have already lost its chance to break GTA IV’s monster sales records, and that an awe-inspiring marketing campaign was in order to recapture lost mindshare. Now, less than a week away from launch, we haven’t really seen a campaign on par with what we saw for GTA IV, and Infinity Ward’s most recent promotions seem to only disappoint the relatively small community of industry writers. There is an enormous group of fans that will purchase this game on day one, and Infinity Ward and Activision have done a great job catering to their interests, but have they missed an opportunity to bring Modern Warfare 2, and video games in general, to a larger audience? Continue reading Call of Differentiation Part 2: Missed Connections

Slow Sales and a Larger Audience Spells Change for the Games Industry

Used Games

June NPD data showed the game industry’s sharpest decline since 2000, with overall sales dropping 31% from this same time in 2008. The sales decline contrasts sharply with the fact that 4 million new gamers have entered the industry in the past year. The rise in audience size alongside a sharp drop in sales signals an emerging trend that players are increasingly turning to affordable digital content, free-to-play online game portals and casual games for interactive entertainment.

With Gamestop openly stating that their margins are being buffered by used game sales, protecting them from the sharp decline, one has to wonder if the sales slump is a temporary trend, or a permanent change. GameStop’s stranglehold on the used game market has caused many publishers and developers to explore alternative distribution outlets via online distribution platforms and console based marketplaces, and thus the quality of digital content has increased monumentally over the past year. Continue reading Slow Sales and a Larger Audience Spells Change for the Games Industry

Call of Differentiation

CODThe Call of Duty franchise is one of the most successful and iconic video game brands of all time, partially because development of each game alternates between two studios, Infinity Ward and Treyarch, allowing publisher Activition to release a new full game each year. But that boon has turned into a burden as the desire for differentiation has resulted in an identity crisis for the brand. The internal politics between Activision, Infinity Ward and Treyarch has created congnitive dissonance over where the Call of Duty series is headed. And in the case of this year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Activision has said that they’re gunning for Grand Theft Auto 4’s launch sales records, but their indecision over the official title of the game may have cost them millions in opening day revenue, and has potentially pushed GTA IV’s sales records out of reach.

For Call of Duty fans the buzz leading up to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has been a roller coaster ride of product branding and re-branding. When the game was first mentioned during a Massive Inc., “upfront” advertising meeting in late 2008, it was referred to as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. After 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Activision dropped the, “4” and began using subtitles to denote sequels, hence 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War – sometimes referred to by fans as Call of Duty 5. Confused? Well don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. Continue reading Call of Differentiation