With the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Activision Publishing is once again walking tall, earning and burning, snapping necks and cashing checks, or something like that (NSFW). It's not the Catalina Wine Mixer, but according to Activision, MW3 has become the "biggest entertainment launch ever" with first day sales exceeding $400 million and more than 6.5 million units in the U.S.
Wait just a minute. Take a deep breath. The sky isn't falling. You still don't have to spend a dime to hunt filthy mouthed 12-year-olds online in Call of Duty. Make no mistake: Activision wants your money, but it's not crazy. Call of Duty: Elite – as the newly announced service is known – will give you more bang for more bucks, but you certainly won't be left high-and-dry if you decide you're a miser, not a fighter.
You've already seen Modern Warfare 3 in motion, but have you ever wondered what it would look like standing completely still? Activision's taking this novel approach for a test run with three “screenshots” (talk about a name that'll never stick) of its latest gunsplosion shootstravaganza, Modern Warfare 3. Predictably, they feature men aiming those things people keep using to beat us in knife fights. Less predictably: fish! At any rate, check out all of them after the break. This message will self-destruct in slow-mo from 12 different camera angles in 15 seconds.
After weathering a leak that would have bled most publishers dry, Activision's officially released the first Modern Warfare 3 gameplay trailer into the wild. Put simply, it's explosion porn – so obviously, if you're an explosion, this is not safe for work. Also, if you thought F3AR made it impossible to look at the number three without weeping bitterly for the English language, wait until you encounter wonderful hits like Threengland, Amthreerica, and Gthreemany. Check out the full thing after the break.
With a cash cow as fat and absurdly profitable as Call of Duty, you'd think Activision would be a bit more excited about its next first-person assault on your wallet. Despite that, for whatever reason, the publisher's remained oddly silent about the game, leaving players in agonized suspense about which dude will be shot in the face/exploded/shot in the face with an explosion next. You can breathe easy now, though, because The Internet managed to dig up dirt on, well, pretty much everything.
While giant corporations are prone to making some impressively boneheaded mistakes, they're not as dumb as you think they are. For instance, many “in-the-know” gamers see Activision as a sinking ship that simply hasn't quite found its iceberg, but – at the very least – the Godzilla-combined-with-King-Kong of videogame publishing has taken notice. And so, with Guitar Hero having played its swan song earlier this year, Activision's now forced to face the elephant in the room: Is Call of Duty next?
Here at Maximum PC, we usually prefer gaming news that's brought to you by the letters “P” and “C,” but a doozy of an earthshaker dropped today over in Console Land, so here we are. Anyway, remember when Guitar Hero was a national institution – a household name? Well, now it's set to remain just that: a memory. And nothing more.
Infinity Ward's far from out, but it's certainly down a number of very important people – including former bosses Jason West and Vince Zampella. Under normal circumstances, that'd mean huffing, puffing, and delaying the game out of 2011 while everyone regroups, but this is Call of Duty we're talking about. Activision's precious lifeblood. Its bread and butter. And so, according to a report by the LA Times, the CODependant publisher's brought in a couple fresh faces to pick up the slack.
First up, there's Sledgehammer Games, who's been quietly hammering away at its own Call of Duty spin-off for quite a while. Apparently, that game will be put on the backburner while the developer lends a hand on Modern Warfare 3. As a result, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer are said to be “working closely” on Modern Warfare 3's single-player campaign -- which may or may not star a certain not-so-friendly Ghost.
Meanwhile, Raven Software – developer of 2009's Wolfenstein reboot and recent time-bender Singularity, among many others – is heading up the multiplayer half of the operation.
For now, Activision's opted to neither confirm nor deny any of it, but has said that it hopes to announce further details in the “near future.”
If it is true, though, it's certainly not Activision's finest moment. The whole thing reeks of frightened desperation, serving as a cautionary tale about what happens when you put all your golden eggs in one brittle basket. Call of Duty's certainly a phenomenon, but it won't stay that way forever. If Activision has so little faith in its other franchises that Call of Duty can't be allowed to miss even a single beat, then things are going to get pretty darn ugly when gamers start moving on and the franchise loses its record-breaking sheen.
Those of you waiting with bated breath for Activision’s fragile, sequelitis-ridden empire to come crumbling down, know this: It won’t be happening this year. Call of Duty: Black Ops is another solid entry in the publisher’s absurdly popular war-shooter franchise. And yet, for all that it is, it could’ve been so much more. Black Ops’ single-player, especially, falls short of its lofty ambitions, leaving us to sigh and ponder what could have been.
Remember that whole kerfuffle between Activision and former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella? Yeah, well, it never ended. Also, it's done being a “kerfuffle.” When this much money and bad blood is on the table, we're legally required to call it by a name that packs a much larger punch. Yep, this one's been upgraded to a good old-fashioned gorilla manly man biceps cagefight squabble.
Not only has Activision finally put a price on its lawsuit, it's also taken aim at another alleged conspirator: fellow corporate King Kong Electronic Arts.
"Electronic Arts conspired with two former senior Activision executives, West and Zampella (the 'executives') to derail Activision's Call of Duty franchise, disrupt its Infinity Ward development studio, and inflict serious harm on the company," read Activision's motion to amend its countersuit.
The rabbit hole, however, runs even deeper if Activision's to be believed. Apparently, West and Zampella attended a private meeting in EA CEO John Ricitiello's house in order to devise a plan to wriggle out of their legally binding contracts – which still had two years left on them before expiration.
The publisher is also accusing its former Call of Duty dream team of purposefully stepping on fellow COD dev Treyarch's toes and continuing to “possess Activision confidential information long after they left which makes it likely that West and/or Zampella have misused and/or will continue to misuse valuable Activision intellectual property and trade secrets, including computer code, now that they have left Activision."
And finally, the big, ugly, slobber-knocking kicker: In addition to demanding $400 million, Activision wants the court to “prevent Electronic Arts and the former executives from benefiting from their illegal conduct." In other words, the publisher's spawn-camping Respawn Studios.
Joystiq has kindly posted the entire court document if you'd like to practically taste random flecks of dirt from all the mudslinging. Needless to say, it's a doozy.