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Hey Activision, Are You Paying Attention?

With Call Of Duty: Black Ops hitting Xbox One via backwards compatibility, gamers are snapping up retail and digital copies of the game, and jumping back into one of the best CoD‘s ever.

It’s no secret that the Xbox community has redeveloped interest in Call Of Duty: Black Ops. You only need to head online to see the player count to understand just how reinvigorated gamers are by the thought of returning to older (and better) Call Of Duty entries. At time of print, there are 43,000 people online. That number has peaked at around 80,000 during more suitable North American times.

Its compatibility on Xbox One has also ignited a retail rush to snap up cheap copies of the game. On Ebay, some copies are going for as much as A$40. That’s $20 more than a pre-owned copy, and $12 more than the Xbox Store for Live Gold subscribers. EB Games Australia has mysteriously removed the game from sale from its online store (it was widely available online yesterday), and now only has in-store copies of the game available. The likes of JB HiFi are quickly running out of stock. I rang three stores this morning, and all said they had sold out. Two different EB Games Stores said it was appearing on their system computer, but that they couldn’t find it on the shelf.

Shockingly, a six-year old game is suddenly one of the most in demand games on Xbox One. Now you could argue that this says more about the Xbox One’s games library than it does about Call Of Duty, but irrespective of the platform, gamers are going to go back and replay good multiplayer games with sizeable and engaged communities. The sudden rebirth of Black Ops on Xbox One demonstrates that you can’t keep a good game down, no matter how many times you hit the dislike button.

Is Call Of Duty Still Marketable?

The downvote campaign against Infinite Warfare has certainly raised questions about the marketability of the franchise. The three-pronged developer approach is probably a good thing for the sake of change, but the problem is that with entries now taking three years to develop, and with a game being released every year, studios like Infinity Ward can’t respond quickly enough to changes in gamer interests. If Black Ops 3 had been released two years after Advanced Warfare as opposed to one, for example, then maybe the response to the chain-movement system wouldn’t be as hostile. And if it was, maybe Infinity Ward would have had the flexility and time to go back to the drawing board.

As Activision mentioned in its diplomatic downplaying of the downvote campaign, the fact that so many people are engaged with Call Of Duty — irrespective of whether that engagement is positive or negative — demonstrates that there’s still enough interest there. As they say, if enough people hate you, then you must be doing something right.

MORE: 10 reasons why you need to quit what you’re playing and jump back into Call Of Duty: Black Ops right now

Well, in Infinite Warfare‘s case that might not necessarily be true, but with pre-orders at all-time highs, it’s clear that Activision’s secret weapon — Modern Warfare Remastered — has had both positive and unintended consequences for the publisher. People seem to be agreeing to purchase the pricier version of a game they don’t want, just so they an return to a nine-year-old game that the more engaged Call Of Duty player in 2016 probably didn’t play as a kid. Activision has reignited interest in Call Of Duty by dangling the carrot of Modern Warfare Remastered in front of the disillusioned fan that gave up at or around the time of Advanced Warfare‘s release.

Does this help “modern” Call Of Duty by essentially diverting interesting away and towards a revamped and shinier version of a near-decade old game? Interestingly, there is more talk now around 2010’s Black Ops and 2007’s Modern Warfare than there is around 2016’s Infinite Warfare: 80,000 people online at peak time for Black Ops, while Black Ops 3 peaked at around 170,000 at launch, and is at less than 100,000 six months after launch.

Where To Now?

Modern Warfare Remastered is a fantastic incentive to get people purchasing pricier versions of your game. I’m sure shareholders are happy. But I think that making people buy your product reluctantly and with their lip perched probably isn’t the best way to reestablish consumer trust, or at least reignite interest in your franchise. Modern Warfare Remastered is exactly what we want, but Black Ops‘ sudden interest spike shows that maybe the best way to get people back through the door is by giving them a cheeky nudge and saying, “Thanks for being fans!”. Modern Warfare Remastered doesn’t really do that for me. It’s more like, “Oh, you want it? Well here it is…”, and you just know that there is a “but” involved at the end there.

People are rushing back to Black Ops for two reasons: one, it’s a great game in its own right, and it helped epitomise that Call Of Duty golden era between 2007 and 2011; and two, because it represents a simpler time when buying a game and starting it up meant you didn’t need to worry about doubling-up for an old game.

Frustratingly, as we play Black Ops and wait impatiently for Modern Warfare Remastered, the Modern Warfare Trilogy is being re-released on Xbox 360, without the hope of any of those entries being made backwards compatible on Xbox One. Remastered versions would be fine, but standalone is something that harks back to the days when these games were so cherished.

If the success of Black Ops on Xbox One has taught Activision anything, it’s that people still want to be part of the Call Of Duty franchise, just perhaps not in the way the publisher wants them to be. Activision is in a situation now where it needs to decide if forcing people to reluctantly buy their product is better than them not buying it at all. Of course, so long as they’re buying it nothing else matters, but I’m a little bitter that I have to pay $160 just to play Modern Warfare Remastered when I have minimal interest in Infinite Warfare, and while the original trilogy is being re-released without backwards compatibility and with servers that are overrun by hacking vermin.

I picked up Black Ops pre-owned for $20, and suddenly I have a new interest in Call Of Duty. When I heard they were re-releasing the Modern Warfare trilogy in a single pack, I thought “Awesome!”. But then the harsh reality kicked in that it wasn’t backwards compatible, and that Modern Warfare Remastered had already set me back $160.

If Activision is paying attention here, it would try to find a way to better service the audience that is rushing back to Black Ops. Forcing us down a path of bitterness as a means to play exciting new remastered versions of classic games probably won’t reignite passion for Call Of Duty, and it certainly won’t make Infinite Warfare look any more appealing.

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