On the Eve of Modern Warfare 3

While I do work some in the Video Game Industry, I don’t write about it very often. However, I thought I would write some thoughts on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3:

Ultimately, I’m approaching it with a great deal of hesitation. Here is why:

When you start up a Video Game, much like watching a Movie, you will see some credits. In Modern Warfare 2, you’ll see Activision’s name, which is the Publisher, and Infinity Ward, which is the Game Development Studio. While the publisher can be involved in making (or ruining) a game, ultimately its up to the studio to produce a high quality game.

However, the Infinity Ward who made Modern Warfare 2 is not the same Infinity Ward who made Modern Warfare 3. Activision fired the lead game designer and a co-founder of Infinity Ward, and about half the staff resigned soon after that. They are now in a lawsuit against Activision who tried to withhold 60% of the staff’s bonuses.

As a Developer myself, there are two things I think are critical when working on a product, especially a video game: Design Direction and Talented Developers. From what I’ve read on the several news stories about staff leaving Infinity Ward, the majority were Leads and Seniors developers, animators, etc. So I would say the bulk of Infinity Ward’s talent left. Why does this matter?

Call of Duty, Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 were are great games. Each added on top of the other, trying new things and bringing noticeable improvements to each installment. Also, while Infinity Ward grew, many of the core team members were the same throughout the series. So you had a great team, with a lot of talent, and experience working together to make great games.

Meanwhile, other Call of Duty games by other studios like Treyarch, released games like Call of Duty: World at War and Call of Duty: Black Ops. While these games weren’t bad games, they weren’t ground breaking either. They felt like minor updates instead of fresh, new material.

So now we have an Infinity Ward with half of their staff brand new, and trying to release a game on a very tight deadline. So I wouldn’t be surprised if there are technical issues at release, especially for the PC. From all the previews I’ve ready about Modern Warfare 3, it sounds like it really is just an updated version of MW2 with new maps and a new game play mode.

So while the videos and images of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 look impressive, and the marketing behind it is great, I’m not holding my breath. But this will be the first time I won’t be purchasing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for PC, my personal choice for playing FPS games. I’ll likely pickup a copy of it for XBox 360 so I can play with friends, but here is my prediction:

Critics will give it high ratings (9+), actual players will give it okay ratings (7+), but Activision and Infinity Ward will have made their biggest mistake. They will have moved from being innovators to just producers. While they might sell millions of copies of this game, and they might pump out a few more titles, they open themselves to being displaced as the leader in the future. I’m hoping that future games will be able to bring in a breath of fresh air while Activision milks their franchise into the ground.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be proven wrong and Modern Warfare 3 will be great. I just have my doubts, especially when you have an exodus of senior talent from a company. I’ve seen that happen before, and rarely does the company produce the same quality as before.

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