It’s funny how five years can seem like such an insignificant amount of time - yet in essence the 2,100-odd (I don’t work with numbers for a reason) days that pass will inevitably and often inexplicably change the world around you.
2007 saw the birth of the iconic Halo 3, The Orange Box, and the title that, over time, would unidentifiably transform the modern gaming landscape: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (along with the death of my social life). Of course I couldn’t forget to note the brilliant array of single player games on offer such as BioShock, Assassin’s Creed, Unchartered: Drake’s Fortune and Mass Effect.
Fast-track to 2012, Halo 4 is ready for release in the later stage of the year, as are BioShock Infinite, Assassin’s Creed III and Diablo III amongst a vast selection of other games. Mass Effect 3 would launch in March to an overwhelmingly favourable reception, unfortunately shadowed by the outcry that would ensue due to its dubious ending. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Unchartered 3: Drake’s Deception and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 are examples of several releases that have allowed their respective franchises to enjoy steady success in 2012 from their late-2011 launches.
But what’s changed? Aside from the obvious technological enhancements that are bound to occur, perhaps the biggest transformation we’ve seen has been that of gamers themselves. In 2007, whilst always extremely popular, gaming still possessed the “geeky” or “nerdy” social stigma that has long been attached to those with an interest in video games, no matter how much time they spend playing them.
In 2012, however, it appears that the proverbial fourth wall has been broken. With the release of the Wii in 2006, Nintendo successfully targeted and tapped into a market that previously had no interest or use for video games. By targeting families, adults and children, Nintendo effectively forged a relationship with millions of “casual gamers”, portraying video games in a new, healthy and positive light. As of 2008, the Wii Series had sold 190.71 million copies, already surpassing the likes of The Sims and Grand Theft Auto.
It can be said that the mainstream ‘acceptance’ of video gaming has emanated from the staggering and ever-burgeoning success of the Call of Duty series. With the franchise initially birthed in 2003, it was not until the success of the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that the games began to build a cult following that would soon turn into a worldwide phenomenon.
With each game in the series continually outselling the other without fail each year, the juggernaut that is Call of Duty shows no signs of slowing. Modern Warfare 3 grossed $400 million dollars in its first 24 hours on sale, selling 6.5 million copies in the US and UK alone, making it the highest-selling game and entertainment launch of all time.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an opinion piece regarding the franchise without mention of the prepubescent-dominated market. The developers of the game have found a formula that works, unfortunately at the cost of the overall gaming experience.
People want to be in control from the get go -- to be able to pick up a controller or keyboard and mouse and instantly play like a professional. Developers have realised this, and now seemingly cater for the impatient tweens who can’t handle the sounds of anything remotely challenging. Whilst it’s all well and good for the publishers who could almost literally shower in money, it’s not so great for the rest of us who have to put up with constant high-pitched whining and screaming.
So where to now? The next-generation of consoles and video games is around the corner, with the strangely-named Wii-U the first console out of the starting blocks, expected for release in late 2012. It will be interesting to see the direction Satoru Iwata and co. decide to take the Wii-U in, and whether it’ll spur a push for Microsoft and Sony to implement their next-generation consoles sooner than expected.
Inevitably, five years from now the worldwide gaming scene will have irrevocably changed, but will it transform to the same extent that we’ve seen over the last five years? Only time will tell.
By Jake Galouzis