The gravy train of hype had to slow down at some point, and if analyst predictions turn out to be true, the Call of Duty franchise may have begun it’s downhill ride after record-breaking sales of previous installments. The 2011 release of Modern Warfare 3 received a warm welcome from critics and sold an impressive 6.5 million copies at launch, exceeding the initial sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops, which was released the year before. However, it appears that Modern Warfare 3 hasn’t performed as well as previous installments over the long term and some speculate that shifting trends in the gaming market could be the reason for this.

Analysts at PiperJaffray, a US-based investment banking firm, have noted that long-term sales of Modern Warfare 3 show a decline in the revenue that the series is generating. While the overall totals are not known, the sales for Modern Warfare 3 are said to be roughly 4 percent behind the previous installment, with the sales figures in March 2012 being half of what was generated the previous year with Black Ops.

The reasons, according to analysts, have more to do with the buying habits of casual gamers who are buying few retail games, especially after the game has launched. The series faithfuls often get the game on launch day, while the more casual consumers tend to wait for price drops or pass on purchasing the game altogether. This points to the trend that software revenues rely heavily on the first wave of launch-day purchases and subsequently released downloadable content to keep the games profitable.

The Call of Duty series has traditionally achieved this by releasing extra content which centers around the multipayer component, such as map packs and extra co-operative missions. In the case of Modern Warfare 3, revenue also comes from their Call of Duty Elite service, which currently has 1.5 million members who have paid for the premium service.

Series detractors could point to other reasons, such as over-saturation of the first-person shooter genre, yearly releases diluting the experience and little innovation between installments, however people buying less retail games, more people moving towards downloadable content and casual gamers using their consoles for other purposes such as music and video streaming seems far more likely. To say that it’s gamer fatigue due to an overabundance of similar games is subjective, however interest from the more casual crowd seems to be waning. How this trend will continue with the next Call of Duty title remains to be seen.

via [Gamasutra]