Activision must be bricking it right now. For the last nine years, Call of Duty has been one of the biggest selling games series in the world, pumping millions upon millions into the publisher's coffers and causing more lines to form at shops around the country than for a Joey Essex book signing.
And now, all of a sudden, everybody hates it.
Well, maybe not everybody, but the first official trailer for the next game in the series (the big reveal that's meant to encourage the masses to go and place their pre-orders ready for November) has not gone down well. In fact, it's been revealed by Forbes that it's the most 'disliked' trailer in the history of YouTube.
That's not some made up, tabloid like stat either. Since it launched last week, the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare reveal trailer has amassed more than 1.6 million 'dislikes' on YouTube (at the time of writing). That's more than any other trailer in the history of the platform. What makes things even worse for Activison and developer Infinity Ward is, its biggest competitor for the FPS crown this Christmas is having rather better luck.
The official Battlefield 1 reveal trailer - which hit the web a few days after Infinite Warfare's debut - has notched up more than 1.2 million 'likes'. Coincidentally, that makes it the most liked trailer on YouTube ever. You just couldn't make it up.
Should any of this really worry Activison, though? Well, dig a little deeper into the stats and things certainly don't look any sweeter. The Call of Duty trailer is also currently the fourth most disliked video on YouTube of any kind, just behind Justin Bieber's video for 'Baby' and Rebecca Black's 'Friday'.
What's more, though 16.3 million people have watched it - by no means a shabby total by any measure - for every one person who has 'liked' it, 5.4 people have given it a thumbs down. Conversely, for everyone one person who wasn't keen on the Battlefield 1 trailer, an impressive 55 people have loved it.
So anxious is Activison, in fact, that even before the figures reached this level, the big boss was forced to comment publicly to calm investor concerns.
"We love that our fans treat this franchise like their own and have such strong points of view about it," said Eric Hirshberg, Activision CEO.
"There just aren't many entertainment franchises on earth that can generate the kind of passion that Call of Duty can... and that's a good thing. We've seen this in the franchise before. The reveal trailer for Black Ops 2, which took the franchise into the future for the first time, had the most dislikes of any reveal trailer we had ever made at that time. And that went on to become our most successful game ever."
Indeed, Hirshberg's central point - that YouTube likes, dislikes or even views don't equate to sales - is spot on, but when it comes to PR, this is about as bad a start as Infinite Warfare could have suffered, and likely not at all what the publisher was expecting. You could say, in fact, that Call of Duty is fast becoming the Jade Goody of gaming - built up almost out of nowhere after the first Modern Warfare made such a splash in 2007 and now, again unexpectedly, trashed by the very fans that helped it fly in the first place.
What seems to have happened is, fans have been hit by two knocks at once. First, gamers are none too pleased that the Modern Warfare remaster won't be available as a separate purchase but rather as part of a hefty £79.99 bundle. Secondly, snapshots of the series going into space in the maligned trailer did not ramp people up as Activision expected, but instead drew unfavourable comparisons with more established sci-fi series Halo and Destiny. In the world of games, space battles are about as original as a Cheryl Cole album track.
In comparison, Battlefield 1's decision to go back to the First World War appears like a stroke of genius. While WWII has been done to death, WWI has been left largely untouched by shooters, making it feel far fresher than Call of Duty despite actually harking back to the past for its inspiration. It's all bad news for Sony, which has nabbed both the advertising and additional contents rights for Call of Duty for PS4, while Xbox One fans - who will benefit from early access to a Battlefield 1 trial and the console's logo all over the TV ads this Christmas - will likely be rubbing their hands in anticipation right now. Individually, of course, rather than all together. That would be weird.
So, will all this mean Call of Duty flops at the shops? Or even that Battlefield will slip ahead in the sales race come Christmas? We'd suggest both are still unlikely - the pent up demand for the Modern Warfare remake, plus aggressive advertising and a strong retail presense suggests Infinity Warfare could be the best selling game in the series to date, even if fans buy it somewhat reluctantly. Either way, Christmas just got interesting.
Words by Keith Andrew
Featured image credit: Call of Duty via YouTube