This was the intent of my statement overall, and I did not mean to imply that people jumped en masse
all at once. But they did go somewhere, over time. Halo wasn't just not attracting new players. It was losing the ones it already had, to the likes of CoD, and then Battlefield once that became mainstream on the consoles, and so on. I remember the population tracker for Halo 3 used to show hundreds of thousands of unique players, but those numbers dwindled. Halo as a franchise had become less popular and less capable of holding the attention of the general public. And the general public of gamers not only shifted its attention, it expanded dramatically because of Call of Duty. People who had not played games before played Call of Duty, and their friends played it because they
played it and so on. In my personal experience, video gaming became "cool" with the launch and popularity of MW2. I even started playing CoD because of MW2, and I hated CoD before then, preferring to stick to Halo. But my friends had stopped playing Halo 3 and jumped on the CoD train because that's what their
friends were playing. Anecdotal, I know, but a microchosm of how word of mouth shifts the market's attention at large.
My point here is that, while Call of Duty had been steadily creeping up behind Halo, it had not caught up with it until 2009. CoD4 released on 3 consoles but Halo 3 was still the best selling video games in the united states during 2007 despite being released on the 360 alone. By January 3rd, it had sold 8.1 million copies.
CoD 4 meanwhile, despite being released on 3 platforms, sold only 7million by January
WaW, on the 360, at 7.50 million has to this day not outsold the units Halo 3 had achieved 3 months after its release
So while yes Call of Duty was competing with Halo, it was not a threat to it by any stretch of the word. Not until 2009. MW2 blitzed past Halo and Halo hasn't caught up since, with MW2 Xbox 360 sales being a million higher than Halo 3 despite being two years younger and being multiplatform.
I'm largely in agreement, that Halo stopped attracting new players whereas CoD was more successful. Reach was released to sales figures that were technically a record for the franchise, but were not the exponential growth experienced by CoD, taking in 200million on the first day (30million up from Halo 3). By September the following year, Reach had sold 4.7million copies, being beaten by Call of Duty and Madden that year.
By comparison, Halo 3 had sold twice that amount by the January of its release--so the claim that Reach did not do any worse than Halo 3 in its first year is just plain false. In fact, I have a very vivid memory of the player tracker from the first few months after Reach came out, and remember being surprised that it read there were ~40,000 unique players whereas Halo 3 used to get 300,000+. That's my own recollection so take of it what you will, but Reach was not anywhere close to Halo 3, at any point in its life time. Per sales, it simply couldn't have been. And it might not have even beaten MW2's player activity because MW2 sold 4.2million Xbox 360 copies in its first month compared to the year it took Reach to sell 4.7 million. By June of 2010, total MW2 sales were said to have surpassed 20million.
From this we can gather two things. That 1) Halo had not brought in any new players whereas CoD had 2) it had lost
players between Halo 3 and Reach. The largest contributing factor for this is necessarily Halo's largest competition, CoD. Halo 3 had not changed between 2007 and 2010, but CoD had. It was seeing yearly releases that kept the franchise in the public consciousness, whereas Halo 3 had to rely on paid map packs (the cost of which would cause aneurysms these days) that didn't add anything truly new to the game. Halo 3 was always Halo 3, and it would always be there for people to come back too, but at some point, people stopped coming back too it. CoD then exploded with the single largest entertainment launch in history up to that point with MW2, bringing an entirely new generation of gamers and kicking off a new gaming trend that would see increased sales in other military shooters, the largest one being Battlefield.
Now, I'm not about to start defending Halo Reach. As a multiplayer shooter, I think Reach is my least favorite in the franchise. Reticle bloom in particular was a terrible idea, and abilities like armor lock would throw a wrench into the flow of the game that made it just unappealing to play at times. But statistically, Halo was in decline before Reach, because Reach was--relative to Halo 3 and MW2 at least--dead on arrival. It literally did not sell enough copies to dethrone MW2 at any point for any length of time, even at launch.
That is what a market shift looks like. Articles began appearing discussing this trend--I recall one awhile back talking about how players want RPG mechanics like rewards systems in their games, but they don't want the actual RPGs. That was something CoD had that Halo doesn't: a reward system, a skinner box to keep players hooked. Reach had the credits, which were used to unlock armor, but that was paltry to CoD. MW2 had unlocks that affected gameplay, with countless attachments and perks for those unlocks, and you could even unlock power ups mid-game with killstreaks. MW2 was a skinner box disguised as a game, with every facet of the game tailoring your play with the feeling of being rewarded.
Halo does not do that, and philosophically, can not do that--no one is defending Halo 4 either. in Halo, if you get dunked on, you get dunked on, and you feel bad about yourself. Why would the average gamer play a hardcore arena shooter when they can play a casual twitch shooter that showers you in virtual goodies? Which leads into my next point, that the arena shooter genre, if not dead, is on life support.
(had to split this into two posts; forgive the double post)