Does Call Of Duty Elite herald the future of the games industry, or is it just an anomaly spurred on by the perpetual popularity of Activision’s series? It’s easier to understand the zeitgeist when hindsight’s involved, but comprehending how great an impact Elite will have when it launches alongside Modern Warfare 3 later this year reveals all sorts of unknown quantities; least of all asking whether or not gamers will be prepared to fork out the additional cash for it.
Social hubs for the biggest games in the industry have become a reality and Activision is taking the next logical step from the long-term franchise plan Bungie initiated with Halo Waypoint. But, with so much time and effort poured into one series, what does it mean for an industry that, so far, has thrived on innovation?
Perhaps that’s a narrow-minded viewpoint – the games industry has always supported innovation across franchises as well as with individual titles breaking through every now and again – but the difference with Call Of Duty and Elite is the all-encompassing nature of its services. For its users, there will be very little reason to even look at other games let alone spend time and money away from its social hub of like-minded players. This is further enhanced with the psychological inhibitor of additional charges, as well as the inherent addictive nature of Facebook-like services. What chances do other games have when Activision has the means and resources to offer gamers both a one-stop hub and a quality game to match?
If it wasn’t one before, Call Of Duty is certainly a platform now, but despite the perceived positives, it could have a detrimental effect on the games industry as a whole. It could be argued that COD already warps the industry’s sales figures, providing a healthier picture than is entirely realistic, and Activision’s might has become so huge, the proposition of a COD-dedicated console begins to feel like a reasonable request. This is a franchise of truly massive proportions. As an industry, of course, we’re used to big games, but Elite could tip COD over into true cultural phenomenon territory. Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski recently commented that mid-level games are beginning to die out and, if that’s true, then services like Elite could be their death knell.
It’s difficult to understand how Elite will fare prior to its launch and, even then, it’s likely we’ll only fully grasp its impact months down the line, perhaps even at some point during 2012. Activision has proposed an impressive lineup of talent to provide content for its users, and COD has become such a giant it’s hard to see it failing to make a big splash. Whether or not other developers follow suit with their own social hubs on a similar scale is unclear (it seems unfair to compare both Waypoint and Battlelog to Elite, as they’re both free). Perhaps we’ll have to wait until next year’s Xmas round-up of games to see Elite’s true impact, and whether or not, as an industry, this shift in focus has had an effect.