Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter has said that while Call of Duty: Black Ops will sell like gangbusters this holiday season, it won’t outperform Modern Warfare 2, nor will it set any records. His reasons: Treyarch’s reputation, and what he perceives to be negative reactions from games press that apparently have already been written.
“The challenge is that Treyarch is called the ‘other’ Call of Duty developer for a reason; the top review scores for the franchise on gamerankings.com are held by Infinity Ward games, with Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2, the original Call of Duty, and Call of Duty 2 each receiving average scores of 89 or higher. The best reviewed Call of Duty game from Treyarch (World at War) received an 85.7% score, while Call of Duty 3 got an 82 rating. I don’t know whether the gaming press will suddenly become more charitable than they have in the past, but my read on them as a group is that they are a hypercritical and bitter lot, and I think that they have the potential to find many things wrong with Black Ops, chief among them that the game is not Modern Warfare 2.”
Um… Mr. Pachter? We’re critics. That’s what we do. We criticise games. It’s in our job description, much the same way telling analysts how a game company’s stock is going to perform is yours. And one of the things we have to criticise is whether a later game in a popular series is better than those that come before it. That’s called “precedent”, and it’s something we’re forced to judge a game on. This is like getting angry at a food critic because he rates the food at a fine Italian restaurant higher than that at Moe’s Pies.
What really gets on my nerves is the implication that we’re all waiting to score the game down because it’s not Modern Warfare 2, as if that was the magic pill that’s going to get us added hits. That’s so ironic, because everything I hear nowadays is complaining and crying – a lot of it done by people on our staff, including myself – about reviews of games that are heavily critical of a game, but then have 8s slapped onto them. I don’t think Mr. Pachter understands the levels of editorial – and, most important, marketing control – that big-site reviews go through before they make it online. In other words, I’d be shocked if Call of Duty: Black Ops is in the 80s on Metacritic; if it is, it’ll be in the high 80s.
And Mr. Pachter? Learn a little of what you’re talking about before you go ahead and paint all of us in the press corps with such a broad brush that questions our integrity as a whole.