Editorial: An exclusive Call of Duty will save PS Vita

Forget memory cards, forget smartphones and 3DSs, forget battery life. All that matters is Call of Duty.

LittleBigPlanet, Resistance, Killzone and Uncharted. Four high-rating franchises that saw release on PS3 last year and will all see release on the PS Vita in 2012 and beyond. Four franchises that have helped solidify PlayStation 3 as a viable “hardcore gamer” system. Four franchises that either rival or best Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s metacritic score. Four franchises that, despite the praise, don’t beat or match Modern Warfare 3’s current sales.

Well, obviously, it’s Call of Duty, duh.

The Vita, then, is currently running on the hype that these franchises generate. It’s undoubtedly a handheld edition of Nathan Drake’s adventures that has people most excited, but sales feedback from the recent Japanese launch proves that Uncharted is not the type of franchise to send stampedes of consumers rushing into stores. In the east, it’s well documented that the franchises with that type of grip are Monster Hunter and Dragon Quest, and Vita is currently without an entry from either of those franchises.

But that’s in the east, and over in the west in this day and age we seemingly have our very own Monster HunterCall of Duty.

A year ago, when Vita was revealed to the world under the name NGP, when we were promised a new LittleBigPlanet, a new Resistance, a new Killzone and a new Uncharted, all with PS3-quality graphics. But there was one more franchise confirmed to come to Vita, and that was Activision’s mega-series.

To this day, as Vita’s western launch draws near, we’ve heard little more on the handheld’s very own Call of Duty, and that’s perhaps Sony’s most baffling move at the moment. I’m not the biggest CoD fan (though I’m certainly not adverse to it), but watching Top Gear on TV the other day I see Jeremy Clarkson announce that driving one car over another “was like playing a PlayStation shooting game that isn’t Call of Duty”, and an interview with Gary Oldman has the actor sending the crowd into stiches over the fact that he is most recognised for playing Reznov in Treyarch’s titles. As I queue for my copy of Modern Warfare 3 at midnight Mum’s line up with their children behind me while groups of people that you wouldn’t catch dead playing Dark Souls swarm in front. It’s a rare franchise with both hardcore and mainstream appeal.

Imagine your average Joe Gamer. He has his Xbox, he plays three, maybe four games a year. Without fail, one of those games will be FIFA/Madden (depending on country) and another will be Call of Duty. They don’t know the PS Vita even exists. Until one day an advert on the television box shows it, boasting an exclusive Call of Duty with its own multiplayer component looking almost as good as its console brethren.

I’m not saying the system becomes a must buy for Joe Gamer there and then, but it will for some and it will undoubtedly be on many others radars afterwards. Then they learn that there is indeed another FIFA heading to the system, it has all of those other franchises to sweeten the deal, and the cameras and 3G and everything else. Suddenly the Vita does indeed have mainstream appeal. After all, there’s no app for Call of Duty (well okay there is, but the zombie spin-off doesn’t count).

The hardcore? A lot of us are already sold, Uncharted, BioShock and others have seen to that. But a lot of us also need reassurance in terms of the kinds of sales and game announcements that mean we won’t be starved for content as with PSP. And what better encouragement to see a Call of Duty title become a system seller and big success with other audiences?

And please, Sony, don’t let it fly under the radar. You cannot market that game running on that system enough. Show just a 30 second clip of the game running multiplayer on TV, have a billboard with the logo firmly imprinted inside the screen, get that Jimmy Fallon guy that loves Uncharted so much to play it. If you ever had to market one title, a Sony-exclusive Call of Duty title is it.

Perhaps I’m overstating the importance of Call of Duty to the industry, but I don’t think I am. The record-breaking launch of Modern Warfare 3 can’t be ignored, nor the many records the franchise has broken since the launch of CoD4. This is a franchise that the PS Vita needs in order to prove itself. Sony and Activision can’t reveal it soon enough.