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Call of Duty: Are Sequels Just More Marketing?

Call of Duty is out, and the talk of the day isn’t about its tight multiplayer or enjoyable campaign. Most conversation seems wrapped around the NEXT Call of Duty. This one isn’t getting a sequel, it’s getting a “premium expansion” – and just what is the difference?


If instead of another Black Ops game we get Modern Warfare 2-2, only it’s a paid expansion and everything is done via update… does it actually make any discernable difference in the eyes of the player? In our age of generally fast internet, is there anything outside of a marketing bump and FOMO that justifies that separate release?

Don’t get me wrong. This is not always the case. The new God of War, despite concerns from some quarters that it didn’t look like it had suitably evolved over its predecessors, got fantastic reviews. Would it have had the same reviews if it was an expansion instead? Could they have even done it that way?

On the other end of the scale, we have Overwatch 2. It’s not really Overwatch 2. It’s Overwatch with a number in its logo. Was that necessary?

But between those two examples, there are a range of examples where it could have gone either way. Resident Evil 3 is regularly cited as a perfect example. Short, sweet, using many of the same locations – so why on earth did it get released as a sequel instead of DLC for Resident Evil 2? Well, it’s easier to justify the price, isn’t it? More people are likely to buy a brand new game than a piece of DLC.

Call of Duty

This is an especially interesting discussion around Call of Duty. It’s traditionally a yearly release, backed today by a free-to-play spin-off in Warzone. It’s been around long enough that when it launched, those yearly releases couldn’t have been done via update. Today? Not so much. In fact, they’re so tied into each other that you can’t load an old game without having to de-select the new game in the main menu.

There are two opposing news stories this week that I find interesting on this.

The first is confirmation from Jason Schreier that a premium expansion is coming for Modern Warfare 2 next year, and that it will include both online and single player content. Interestingly, this may tie into the earlier rumour that the online content will be older maps from across Call of Duty’s history.

The second is that Modern Warfare 2 topped a billion dollars in just ten days – quicker than any Call of Duty before it.

If you’re wondering why we’re not just on a yearly update yet, this is why. Even though it doesn’t make a tonne of sense. Even though it’s perfectly possible that the expansion model could easily feed Call of Duty for a generation. People are still desperate to buy the ones they want day one, for full price, before instantly discussing where the franchise goes next.

And in all honesty, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The psychology is fascinating and I suspect it’s something we’ll get away from in the future. Live service games don’t necessarily need sequels to be hugely successful. But for now, it’s something we want, and it doesn’t look like it’s changing any time soon.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott