Infinity Ward multiplayer designer working on Modern Warfare, Geoff Smith, has claimed that overly balanced Call of Duty games have made it less fun, suggesting esports could be the root of the issue.
Smith is Infinity Ward's co-design director, and one of the many former IW developers who returned to the studio having worked on Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2.
2020 will see the start of the city-based franchised league for Call of Duty, a major step forward for CoD esports, implementing the same system as has proven somewhat successful for Overwatch.
However, Smith argues that esports could in fact be the cause for "boiling the fun out of" Call of Duty, because of the emphasis on balancing.
"I think somewhere along the lines these games have tried to get so balanced, maybe it was esports, it’s kind of just boiled the fun out of the things when you try to super-balance everything," Smith stated, "We’re just having fun. We want to just be able to climb around and have fun interactions."
Smith continued: "If I can creatively problem-solve this firefight, instead of having me forced down the hallway, I can use my brain better. I can get a different advantage. And it’s kind of a, you know, a puzzle-platform approach. We just want to create more dynamic interaction.
"We’ve boiled it down to this micro-level of one-on-one combat, and what we can do to add variability to the outcome of that, from climbing around you to running inside and closing a door that causes you to make a choice, you’re going to run in and enter that building somehow."
There has been a divide between the competitive and casual community in Call of Duty for a number of years, and some on the casual side have even echoed Smith's opinion that a focus on balance and competitive play has diminished the arcadey fun of CoD.
Esports players, however, would argue that improved balance, both in weapons and maps, should always be strived for in a multiplayer shooter.
Games like Modern Warfare 2, which Smith worked on, had glaring balance issues which ruined the game for many, most notably the combination of Grenade Launchers and the One Man Army perk, which would allow for endless grenade launcher (or 'noob tube') spam.