Once a year, every year, we get a new Call of Duty game. That’s the way it has been for the last 16 years. When Infinity Ward released Call of Duty 2 in 2005, they surely couldn’t know the cash cow that they were sitting on. They almost certainly couldn’t envision where the franchise would end up today.
16 years on, Call of Duty is easily the biggest shooter franchise in the world. Each new release regularly sells over 20 million copies with 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot reaching an enormous 30 million [via ComicBook].
Activision has now delivered a total of 18 mainline Call of Duty games to players, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. The rumour mill is already alive and firing with supposed leaks surfacing regarding what this year’s entry might entail.
Activision confirmed in a recent financial call that Sledgehammer Games are working to release another new game later this year. The question is, do we really need another Call of Duty to sink our teeth into? Are we past the age where players care about yearly game releases?
The status quo
For years, Call of Duty has been the same old story. The hype engine fires itself up around May with a reveal trailer and open beta usually scheduled for the Summer. November rolls around and the community piles into the public lobbies. The race is on to find the ‘god gun’, meta loadouts begin to surface online, and all anyone cares about is who can earn the Diamond camo the quickest.
Four DLC packs get released periodically over the next nine months. The YouTube stars rinse the marketing strategies by posting thumbnails of themselves screaming into the void. It all comes around full circle when the next franchise instalment is teased in May. Thus, the cycle repeats.
For the most part, that’s how things have played out for the last 15 years or so. Some might look back on it nostalgically – fondly, even. But the status quo was severely shifted in recent years thanks to the launch of Warzone.
Warzone changes everything
The launch of Warzone in 2020 coincided with a pretty huge change of direction for the Call of Duty franchise. Just a few months prior, the Modern Warfare reboot debuted a revolutionary new engine built specifically for Call of Duty.
Taking beloved characters from the original Modern Warfare series, 2019 kickstarted a new era for the franchise, which had space for a bit of reinvention. Treyarch continued this energy into 2020’s Black Ops – Cold War release. Again, retconning parts of the old canon and cherry-picking the best bits.
All of this is to support Warzone, arguably the franchises most ambitious venture in its history. Piggybacking off the popularity of Playerunkown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, the free-to-play variant of Call of Duty changed the way in which we view Call of Duty.
We went from seeing each game as its own identity to perceiving them as an interconnected universe. Where we would once rinse a game for 12 months before leaving at the first sight of another, Modern Warfare, Warzone, and Cold War exist in a cosy, connected bubble.
Weapon unlocks earned in Cold War apply to Warzone, and vice versa. On top of that, the Modern Warfare and Cold War weapons can be used alongside each other in Warzone loadouts, creating a unique connection between two releases that we haven’t seen before in the franchise
It’s all tied into the season pass monetisation model that’s replaced the previous structure of regular expansion packs. Instead of releasing a huge dump of content every three months, new maps and weapons are teased out frequently, which constantly keeps things fresh.
Warzone isn’t without its issues
Though Warzone has acted as the catalyst between the most recent two COD’s, the new system hasn’t been without its issues. When Raven Software integrated the Cold War weapons into Warzone’s loadout menu, it practically halved the time-to-kill.
With that many new weapons added into a game’s meta at once, standout balancing issues were bound to rear their heads. It’s an issue that Raven is still battling with six months on. The team is still trying to eek that time-to-kill back to what it was during the Modern Warfare era.
Besides the bugs and balancing issues, the overall Warzone event experience has been lacklustre. It was great to see Verdansk get a fresh coat of paint with the ’80s themed reskin, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking for a more drastic change.
Could Warzone become too saturated?
Industry insider Tom Henderson reckons that these issues are, at least in part, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams adapting to remote workflows have apparently pushed by schedules by months, resulting in new content taking longer to hit the public servers.
In the same financial call where Activision confirmed that a new game would release this year, it also said that Warzone would play a huge role moving forward. President of Activision, Rob Kostich, said:
“Now as we look ahead for Warzone later this year, there will be some other really fun integration with the great work that Sledgehammer Game is leading to this year, new premium release.”
With another huge chunk of content potentially on its way to Warzone, we could be in for another bout of integration and balancing issues.
In addition, if the rumours are true, it sounds as though the Sledgehammer team is working overtime to get this new game out of the door before 2021 is out. Sledgehammer could tell a different story, but we’ve seen before what happens when a studio is pushed to the brink…
Activision has a business to run
In this business, the buck stops with the game publishers – they’re the ones who have all the data which dictate which games get made and when. Activision will be the one that decides if pushing a new Call of Duty to release in 2021 is worth it or not.
My question still stands. When Call of Duty has such a good thing going with Warzone as it does, why bother pushing a dev team to release a half-baked product for the sake of keeping up appearances? With both Modern Warfare and Cold War are still receiving regular content updates, the player base has plenty to keep them entertained for a long while yet.
Only time will tell if Activision’s push to release yet another Call of Duty this year will pay off. Until then, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the streets of Verdsansk.
Do you think that there should be another Call of Duty game released this year? Let us know across our social channels.
[Featured Image Credit: Activision]
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