Why “Call of Duty” Shouldn’t Have a Battle Royale Mode

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Activision)

So apparently “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” is getting a Battle Royale mode, essentially turning it into another “Fortnite” or “Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds”.

Allow me to be the first to offer up a resounding “meh”.

I should probably point out that at present the existence of a Battle Royale mode is merely a rumor. In fairness, so is pretty much everything we know about the game. Publisher Activision is playing things very close to the chest this time around.

That said, it feels like a “Call of Duty” Battle Royale mode is inevitable. The video game industry has always revolved around idea theft. Once a trend becomes popular, every studio that can possibly copy its basic premise will try to get in on the act.

At this point, I won’t be surprised if the next “Mario + Rabbids” game is simply a handful of Battle Royale maps. “The Hunger Games” has a lot to answer for.

Black Ops 4
Source: Activision

Here’s the thing, though: I’m not particularly on board with this trend, and I certainly don’t think that the “Call of Duty” franchise of all things ought to be jumping on the bandwagon.

War Never Changes

“Call of Duty” games are big-budget moneymakers that tend not to vary all that greatly from each other. Picking these games up year after year has become such an entrenched tradition for a core audience of gamers. There’s really no point for Activision to try all that hard in coming up with ideas for the games.

The inclusion of a Battle Royale mode would be yet another indication of this laziness. Just as earlier “Call of Duty” games started including zombie survival modes simply because they were popular, cribbing off “PUBG” or “Fortnite” would be an uninspired, cynical attempt to make the newest “Call of Duty” game appealing without any attempt at original thought or ideas.

I know I’m probably barking up the wrong tree here, but considering the huge audience for any “Call of Duty” game, this feels like it should be an opportunity for developers to innovate, or experiment.

People are going to buy the game no matter what, so why not try to inspire a new trend, rather than creating a shallow derivative?

Why Fix What Ain’t Broke?

But, then, experimentation and originality is not what built the “Call of Duty” castle in the first place. Activision has succeeded in finding a game experience that gamers are happy to enjoy over and over for years and years, and not the company plans to run that core experience into the ground in a mad dash to make as much cash as possible before people lose all interest in the brand.

Fortnite Zombies
Source: Epic Games

There’s no room for risky trial and error when Activision wants these games shoveled out the door as quickly as possible, providing each release with just enough “new” ideas to fool customers into thinking they’re getting an original experience.

“Black Ops 4” is probably going to earn Activision eleventy kajillion dollars. If it gets a Battle Royale mode, it will no doubt help.

Call me pessimistic, but I think this’ll be great news for Activision’s shareholders, and pretty terrible news for the actual players of the game, who could be enjoying a much better experience if only the “Call of Duty” franchise could be blessed with the merest hint of a fresh idea.