Microsoft’s games presence at E3 this year was just about as expected—the usual suspects like Halo, Gears of Wars, Forza and Fable all made a showing—and almost lived up to the firm’s hyperbolic tagline, “the greatest games lineup in Xbox history.” But what Microsoft didn’t mention was a surprising defection: Call of Duty, one of the most successful gaming franchises in history, will now deliver game updates, including new map packs, to PlayStation first, not Xbox.
And that actually kind of sucks. It’s not Microsoft’s fault, per se, though I’d imagine not paying whatever prohibitive vig that Activision was demanding played a role. Since the 2007 release of Modern Warfare, Call of Duty gamers—and there are millions of them—have purchased Xbox consoles for one reason and one reason only: DLC—or downloadable content like map packs, new weapons, new game modes and so on—would appear first on Xbox and then be drizzled out to other platforms like PlayStation or the PC at a later date. The message was simple: if you were a Call of Duty fan, you got an Xbox.
“PlayStation is the new home of Call of Duty,” PlayStation CEO Andrew House announced during Sony’s E3 press conference last night.
This won’t matter at launch per se. But over the course of the ensuing year, Call of Duty gamers can purchase several DLC drops—or sign up for them all upfront via a subscription. And PlayStation users, not Xbox users, will get them first. This is … untenable.
Looking at the Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 multiplayer trailer above, I see a game that looks an awful lot like the current COD title, Advanced Warfare. Which isn’t inspiring, actually: AW is, to my mind, the weakest title in the modern COD era (Modern Warfare or newer), especially in multiplayer, where it apes Titanfall with jet packs and vertical, flying game play. I’ve spent each of the past several years doing nothing but playing whatever the most recent COD title is for that year, but this past year I’ve gone back and replayed the older games because AW multiplayer is so lackluster.
That said, the graphics are crisp and clear, and while I didn’t find that the last two COD games—Ghosts and AW—looked any better on PS4 than they do on Xbox One, this one looks to be different. I do see an obvious visual difference moving between Xbox 360 and Xbox One with these games today, and the extra visual clarity really does matter in multiplayer in particular. So Activision’s decision to go with Sony could be partially based on that visual difference.
I’m curious if this change leads to any platform switches, given the size and dedication of the COD user base. We’ll see. But for me, this announcement has somewhat muted yesterday’s excitement over backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games. Especially if those older COD titles are not among the games being made available.
Maybe it’s time to bone up on my PS4 controller experience.