When Call of Duty was first announced for PlayStation Vita, it signaled a promising future of solid third-party support for Sony’s new handheld, as well as an acknowledgment that big franchises traditionally played in the console space could be instrumental in getting fresh hardware into the wild. Indeed, it could have been easily looked at as validation of Vita itself, as the largest game publisher on the planet was ready to bring the biggest gaming series in the world to PSP’s successor.
But then, there was silence. The next time we heard about the iteration of Call of Duty’s set for release on Vita was at E3. It was there that the game was given a name, but suspiciously, no footage was shown. Indeed, apart from the game’s logo, not a single screenshot was to be found, either. And perhaps most alarmingly, no one even knew who its developer was. Mind you, the game was slated to come out in under six months at that point.
In other words, something was up.
It was obvious. Sony wasn’t necessarily trying to hide something outright, but it was certainly doing its best to keep chatter of the game alive while giving players as little information as possible. Activision was complicit, too. By the time we actually saw it running – at Sony’s Gamescom press conference -- it was a mere three months or so away from being released.
This series of events should concern you. Anyone who follows the industry even remotely knows that this is exceptionally unusual for a big game that folks behind the scenes are confident in. The Vita is struggling and Call of Duty could single-handedly save it in the west. But neither Sony nor Activision has been all too eager to show the game off, and you have to ask yourself a single question constructed of only one word: why?
There are multiple possible answers to this question, paramount among them circling around who’s developing the game. Perhaps Sony would have been more inclined to reveal earlier that Nihilistic Software was behind Black Ops Declassified, but after the walloping its last game took critically, it’s no surprise it recoiled in fear. As we pointed out earlier this week, Nihilistic’s last two games – Resistance: Burning Skies and PlayStation Move Heroes – aren’t exactly considered the cream of the crop. And Sony and Activision knew that revealing the developer too early could spell bad news with the press and the gaming masses alike.
Typically, big games result in their teams being portrayed as equally big deals. When you think of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, you think of Todd Howard and his squad at Bethesda Game Studios. The word BioShock doesn’t only conjure up thoughts of a great, ambient FPS, but of Irrational Games and its lead designer, Ken Levine. Even Call of Duty itself draws up constant comparisons between the two studios most responsible for its commercial greatness – Infinity Ward and Treyarch – and some of the biggest names that work or have worked there are household names (if your household is especially nerdy). An approach like this isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s common, and becoming increasingly more so as the men and women behind the games we know and love come to the fore, like actors, directors and producers on television shows and movies.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified should have been a big game with a prominent team behind it. But it’s not. And Sony and Activision clearly aren’t excited about who’s developing it or what the game’s all about. So why should you be?