In my previous post, I alluded to how two of the biggest gaming franchises in the world are experiencing bizarrely similar fates to older series whose flames fizzled out after years of being spectacular.
Dear Activision: Relax
Skylanders is teetering close to encountering the same fate as Guitar Hero. The original entry in the series was paradigm shifting whenever it was released in 2011. They single handedly invented the Toys to Life genre and had large success with it. However, competitors are moving leaps and bounds ahead and leaving Skylanders in the dust.
One of their largest challenges has been name recognition. Disney’s Infinity series has dozens and dozens of characters that people know and love. Introducing Marvel and Star Wars characters in each respective sequel only added a larger roster of characters fans would go crazy over. Nintendo brings a different, but arguably greater take to the genre with the Amiibo series. Instead of having to buy a whole new game and a collection of figures to go with it, Nintendo began implementing support for their figures into pre-existing games. By making these figures a supplemental option and a collector’s item versus the center of gameplay, Nintendo reported a wildly successful year in Amiibo sales.
Compared to all these competitors, Skylanders appears to simply be phoning it in. While being completely innovative with their original product, their sequels have been gimmicky carbon copies. The only reason they have been able to continue to churn them out has been the toys themselves.
My suggestion for Activision would be to find a completely new way to incorporate these figures. The “platformer with interactive figures” shtick can only take someone so far, and if they don’t do something with this new iteration of the series, they will be in serious trouble.
Call of Duty is also in desperate need of either reinvention or retirement. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare released in 2007 and is still considered by many to be the best game in the series, and they succeeded because it was something completely fresh. While the first three games in the series were the best World War II shooters on the market, gamers had seen way too many of them. The studios needed to reinvent the series, and they did so in spectacular fashion. We are seeing something very similar happen with all the futuristic shooters.
My suggestion here would be to take a year off and go back to the drawing board. I had a suggestion tweeted at me to remaster Modern Warfare. I really like that idea. In fact, if they were to do an HD remaster of the Modern Warfare trilogy, I feel like it would sell extremely well and they can release that instead of the millionth sequel. I also feel like Activision needs to go back to one developer for the series. The alternating-studio format they are currently employing is contributing to Call of Duty being so stale. One studio, Sledgehammer Games will release a game one year. Treyarch will release the other. If they want to use the other studio to create a new IP, that’s fine. In fact, I encourage that idea. But they can’t release as many games under the Call of Duty banner and expect continual success.
Skylanders and Call of Duty are two series that are facing dwindling sales. They can be saved if Activision learns from their past mistakes. Otherwise, they are risking going out with a whimper instead of a bang.