This week, Activision announced that Call of Duty Infinite Warfare would be hosting a 5 day free play trial of the game on all available platforms. You are free to try out a sample of the campaign, its multiplayer, and its highly enjoyable zombies game mode. Jokes were made, words were said, and I feel I had to say something about it.
I’m not necessarily defending Call of Duty or Activision here, even though I am. Have I lost you yet? Maybe. Sure, it’s the first time that the Call of Duty franchise has ever had to succumb to a free play event to encourage players to try out their brand new title, but they are far from the first publisher or title to do so.
This year, we have had two free play weekends for Overwatch, a free weekend of Rocket League, a free weekend of Titanfall 2, and I even recall a free weekend of Forza Motorsport 6. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 did it too. ReCore had a 30 minute free trial as well. I’m probably forgetting about another event, which you can fill in in the comments for me. The point I’m making is; it’s a change in the climate for gaming, and I’m all for it.
This year, we have seen a drastic drop in sales for all holiday released titles. Watch Dogs 2 sold something like 80% less than Watch Dogs in 2014 at launch. Titanfall 2 sold less on all platforms than the original game which only released on Xbox consoles and PC. Infinite Warfare itself sold far less than any other Call of Duty release to date. As a gamer who follows the industry really closely, I find it worrying, honestly.
While huge publishers have money to spare to recoup losses, money doesn’t grow on trees. Due to the current trend of failing sales targets, publishers have to find new ways to make money. Activision knew Infinite Warfare would struggle, so they bundled Modern Warfare Remastered into the higher end packages to encourage sales. That has since began to turn sour, with the new addition of micro-transactions which Shane spoke about here.
Other popular titles begin adding micro-transactions such as loot crates, in-game currency and ‘card packs’ to try up the profits and make some money back from these expensive-to-produce titles we love buying every year or two.
But the point I want to make in this article relates to free play weekend events, which allows gamers to try out a new title on the market, as a form of an extensive demo. Maybe you’re a Call of Duty hater each and every year. Why not play it and come to your own conclusion? Maybe you will actually like it! Or, maybe you won’t, but at least you will have had the opportunity to try it, and can judge it with more reason.
Rocket League is a game that many, including myself, speak highly about. Yet I have a huge number of friends who have yet to play it, and who have yet to take my sane advice. It’s a game that everyone can, and should enjoy!
While everyone and their dog has played Grand Theft Auto V, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rockstar Games decided one day to open up GTA Online in a more free-to-play model, due to their heavy use of Shark Cards. While I love GTA Online, I have never spent a single penny or cent in the game other than buying the actual game, but the option is still there for a cash boost.
In any other industry, you can try before you buy. Last generation, most games offered a demo of some sort, and it helped in aiding us with our buying decisions. This generation, demos are hard to come by. In other industries such as books, cars, even house buying, you can read an excerpt, test drive a new car, or visit a potential house or apartment before investing. In games, you have to take a risk and buy outright.
Free play events allows gamers to try out a game they may not have interest in, because they don’t want to put down $60 or so on an unknown. Let them have 2-5 days of access, and you’re sure to secure another few hundred, or thousand sales. You also risk losing potential customers, but at least they can rest assured knowing they didn’t waste money on a product they didn’t enjoy in the end. Everyone wins.
Is Call of Duty Infinite Warfare in trouble? Not really, but its sales are a lot less than what the series is accustomed to. Will the series try again next year with something new? Probably. Is it interesting that the publisher is offering a free to play weekend event? Very much so, but with the examples of other titles like Overwatch and Titanfall 2 doing it as well, it’s not new, and in fact, it’s just the result of a climate change in the industry.