Of all the criticisms directed at Microsoft’s Xbox One event, the heavy-handed focus on Call of Duty: Ghosts was one of the most widely reported and ridiculed.
Aside from the bewildered looking cod-dog, it appeared baffling to give so much airtime to a game we all knew was coming.
However, Call of Duty is important to Microsoft in more ways than one. Owning the head-space around the franchise is not just about selling units, it’s about selling bundles of units.
The migration from the current console generation to the next poses problems that haven’t been encountered before. No longer can your old console simply be replaced with something shiny and new. We now have profiles, identities and communities that need to make the journey too.
Online multi-player is now a standard feature on home consoles and with it a generation of gamers have formed strong communities around games like FIFA and Call of Duty, playing together and often.
So, while we bemoan the lack of a Perfect Dark 3 or Gears of Four being announced, this is very much a deliberate move from Microsoft. By making an early play for Xbox One to be seen as “the Call of Duty console” Microsoft are not just hoping to attract individual buyers, they want to attract these communities and clans en masse.
The advent of a new generation will bring a multitude of new whiz-bang features, but when it comes to purchase one of the strongest motivators will be, “Which console will my friends be getting?” These players will not decide individually, but collectively.
Each platform will have exclusives, its Halos and um, Killzones, but the war between Sony and Microsoft will be for those gamers with more loyalty to third-party cross-platform games. Microsoft has splashed out on exclusive content and DLC for these titles, knowing that once they attract these groups, they’ll have them for an entire generation.