Neversoft, you wily rascals! Where in the holy hell have you been? One of Activision’s most prolific and reliable studios has been, pretty much for the first time since their inception in 1994, silent these past two years. Not having made a game since 2010, and not having worked on an original property since 2005, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Neversoft was a studio that may have finally crumpled under the weight of franchise fatigue. They’re back though! Working on… Call of Duty.
MCV reported on Friday that Neversoft isn’t necessarily working on the follow up to this fall’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 or a full title at all. The studio has actually already been brought on to assist with past titles, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a game credited first to Infinity Ward but that was worked on by a fleet of studios including the newly formed Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software (Quake 4, Singularity).
Activision’s official statement on Neversoft’s return to duty reads, “We have molded our team into a crack squad of eager developers ready to push the First Person Action genre in support of Activision’s Call of Duty franchise.” Translation: Call of Duty, as both a game and a brand, is far bigger than Infinity Ward or any one studio at this point. The amount of additional content necessary to maintain the current release cycle of a new game, regular downloadable content releases, then a new game almost exactly 365 days later, needs a mammoth work force to back it. This is an addition to the ever-expanding Call of Duty Elite, something that may very well come to replace individual Call of Duty releases as a persistent, regularly updated service.
Multiple cautionary tales sit inside Neversoft’s resume though, and Activision would do well to remember past mistakes. For eight years straight, Neversoft released a new Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game, a release cycle that exhausted the fan base and ruined the franchise. Neversoft’s took over the Guitar Hero series with Guitar Hero III right when Tony Hawk had finally imploded. It pumped out seven Guitar Hero games in 3 years, effectively killing that series as well. If Activision doesn’t slow down with Call of Duty, its evergreen cash cow will dry up all too quickly.
Poor Neversoft. They’re like the Scott Weiland of video games. A marvelous breakout group (Tony Hawk Pro Skater to Stone Temple Pilots) that erodes into lamentable self-parody and then becoming the front man for a tired group once the star has moved on (Guitar Hero to Velvet Revolver.)