The Call of Duty franchise is a monolith in video games and has been so for years. What once started as a World War II franchise has evolved into a generational series spanning multiple eras from 1942 to 2180.
The PC and console first-person shooter genre was heavily dominated by WWII period games like Medal of Honor, Wolfenstein and Battlefield. The Call of Duty series started out the same with the first three main series entries set during WWII. The FPS genre was dying for a refresh and something brand new. Enter Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Now, there were modern shooters already released before COD 4. Although, none quite had the cultural impact the latest COD title had. Its single player campaign was one of the best storytelling experiences and the multiplayer was addicting and refreshing. Infinity Ward introduced a new Create-a-Class system alongside killstreaks players could earn for chaining kills together in one life. COD 4 became the industry standard and the FPS genre hasn't been the same since.
Other studios adapted their franchises to a modern setting, but none overtook Call of Duty for its popularity. Fans wait each year for the next Call of Duty title eagerly. Some titles take more risks than others, predominantly with the setting and movement, but the core values remained.
It begs the question, what would've happened if COD 4 was never made? Would the FPS genre be stuck in the 1940's with no need for innovation?
Probably not. A studio would've just beaten Activision and Infinity Ward to the punch. But, would that game have had been as revolutionary as COD 4? Would Battlefield had been the favored title in the COD vs. BF debate?
Perhaps another game getting there first would've given Infinity Ward more time to experiment with new features. Outside of multiplayer innovation, Call of Duty's impact on console popularity can't be understated.
Each year fans wait eagerly for new information on the next Call of Duty title particularly the multiplayer aspect. Here are the YouTube numbers as of Aug. 18 for Call of Duty multiplayer reveal trailers:
- Modern Warfare (2019): 10 million views
- Ghosts: 10 million views
- Black Ops 2: 11 million views
- WWII: 7.1 million views
The Call of Duty franchise also went on to play a pivotal role in the PlayStation vs. Xbox console war. First, Microsoft had exclusivity receiving downloadable content first. Then, Sony took over and even became a leading sponsor of the game's esports scene.
"Oh, you play on PlayStation it's easier." "If you're not playing on Xbox, you're not doing it right." And even deeper than that, there were wars in the console communities. Call of Duty vs. Gears of War. Call of Duty vs. Killzone.
Without COD 4, it's relatively safe to say the franchise nor genre would've been the same. The game was so influential on video games and pop culture as a whole and that status has only recently been achieved by Fortnite.
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