With its latest World War II release, Call of Duty is back where it belongs: on the ground and running on millions of players' TVs and monitors. We recently talked to SuperData analyst Elena Fedina on Call of Duty WWII's success, lootboxes, and the firm's predictions for Activision's Q4'17 period.
So far Call of Duty WWII has been a smashing success. The shooter is a proper return to form for the series, and following the disappointing sales of Infinite Warfare, the WWII release managed to make over $500 million in sales revenues in just three days time. That puts it close to Black Ops 3's massive sales, proving gamers are eager to jump back into what made Call of Duty great.
But COD:WWII comes with some interesting new mechanics, especially the new Headquarters social space. In a way this space is reminiscent of Destiny's Tower, where gamers can see one another, party up, and interact in key ways. But this time Activision has something special with Headquarters.
"The Call of Duty WWII Headquarters social space is an interesting part of the game, and is a built-in community engagement playground that also incentivizes microtransaction purchases," said SuperData analyst Elena Fedina.
"Headquarters is a really interesting mechanic not just because it's a social hub, but players can also see each other opening lootboxes. Getting really high-end [cosmetic] items is going to incentivize people to want to buy in to get that item too."
But it's not just about opening lootboxes for fun. The game can actually reward you for spectating lootbox openings--a move that probably has Activision competitors like EA and Take-Two looking on with rapt attention.
"So from that perspective it's definitely going to drive more engagement for sure. The interesting thing that I see is introducing quests, and some of those quests might actually be to watch another players open lootboxes," Elena said.
"With the opportunity for gamers to get in-game rewards for watching players open those things they're kind of creating a dynamic that's really difficult to predict results. There's lots of negativity [with lootboxes]--reviewers, social media users, gamers, etc--but also the Call of Duty core playerbase is very willing to pay, as we've seen with Black Ops 3, which made a lot of money through additional content.
"Activision recently patented a microtransaction algorithm, and it appears there might be traces in the new Headquarters mode."
The publisher seems to be ahead of its competitors when it comes to lootbox spectating to build organic engagement, which allows gamers to get rewards in-game instead of having to watch Twitch, YouTube, or other Mixer to see box openings.
In regards to the benefits that lootboxes have for publishers, the SuperData analyst touched upon the microtransaction system that typically propels and funds the free update engagement-driven business model.
"Lootboxes are a great mechanic in of itself [for publishers]. Take Overwatch, another Activision game. We've been looking into the game, and even though Blizzard introduces new maps and new characters those free updates don't generate nearly as much revenue as lootboxes. When Blizzard introduces a new character and they have more lootbox items for that character then we see the revenue raise as people go in to buy stuff."
What about new content? Every service-based game with an online multiplayer component typically embraces the engagement model, and new content is a considerable driver to keep players invested both via gameplay and monetarily via lootboxes and optional purchases.
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