A common criticism of the series is that each new game follows the same basic formula as the last one, and that very little is changed from the previous title. With formidable competition from Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ: EA ) Battlefield series, it looks like Call of Duty's reign may soon be coming to an end.
The problem that Activision faces is simple. Making any significant change in the Call of Duty franchise could ruin it as a cash cow for the company if gamers don't like the changes. On the other hand, churning out similar games every year will eventually end in the series losing its luster, and that appears to be already happening.
Quality over quantity: Take-Two Interactive's approach
The Battlefield series from Electronic Arts made the jump to consoles in 2008 with Battlefield: Bad Company. The game only sold 2.7 million copies, but the sequel in 2010 more than doubled this number. Then came Battlefield 3 in 2011, a game which proved hugely popular by selling 16.1 million copies. Battlefield 4 was released at about the same time as Ghosts, so meaningful sales numbers won't be available until after the holidays.
One big difference between Call of Duty and Battlefield is that Electronic Arts doesn't plan to create a new game every year, instead opting for an every-two-years approach. Activision's every-year approach with Call of Duty is likely the reason that the games are being increasingly poorly reviewed, since a fundamental shift in game-play can't happen in just a year.
Instead, graphics are updated and small changes are made, but each new game is essentially a clone of the previous game. With two years of development time, the Battlefield series has the ability to make each new game a big advance over the previous one.