Milking a Brand

Activision is well on its way to becoming the top publisher in the industry with its impending merger with Blizzard. As profits soar, so does the demand for high growth. To achieve this growth their shareholders and management desire, current profitable titles and the opportunities attached with high profile franchises must be aggressively capitalized on, but at what price?

Activision has declared a couple of months back their planned yearly product cycle for Guitar Hero and Call of Duty franchises. Both titles significantly adding to share values and profitability of the business for the past couple of years.

Regrettably, minor and even major updates can only last so long. Innovation can get stagnant after years of innovation on gameplay design and as well as people's susceptibility in purchasing an annual copy of the game.

Check the NBA Live brand... (source: Metacritic)

So from 2003, it was known and critiqued as an above average game -- it sustained those scores for the next 2 years, sadly for the franchise, it's been publicly known as a consistent mediocre game since ‘06 till ‘08. And sales obviously went down from there.

Although this could be a case of it being just a ‘basketball game’ -- innovative freedom would be limited, however, possibilities to enhance gameplay and features are achievable although minor.

Releasing a game with the same Title then a different subtitle is a bit of an overkill and inherently redundant. Take for example, Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell franchise, in the end, they had to revamp its whole approach on game design - they saturated the brand during the last gen, numerous ‘updates’ on mostly a year or two intervals. The fifth iteration is a perfect example of studios realizing brand saturation -- a complete overhaul on game mechanics and design.

The value of the brand diminishes overtime. Call of Duty so far has done a great job reinventing itself, if COD4 came out with another WW2 setting? Predicted market reaction: Not another WW2 shooter...

Infinity Ward was pushed to innovate, they were developing the game (COD4) since late 2005. This proves, that they knew the overused and overdone WW2 FPS setting. And a game design overhaul was due.

Which gives reason to Infinity Wards’ demand for exclusive development rights from their umbrella company. They see the profit based approach their owners are implementing to the franchise. And directly and indirectly slowly diminishes the brand’s value and marketability.

Guitar Hero and COD are great franchises, and so far Activision has been able to deliver each version with bigger and better gameplay, but 3 to 5 years from now there's a high possibility that it'd reach its grand creative limit and the way consumers will view those franchises would be of familiarity and fatigue.