When the news broke that Microsoft will be acquiring Activision Blizzard in a $68.7bn deal, fans of the Call of Duty series began to theorize that Sledgehammer Games and other Call of Duty studios may drop the series to work on other games. Although this could be a possibility once Microsoft acquires the publisher, it’s currently not the plan.
Sledgehammer Games has already begun pre-production of its next Call of Duty title, sources have said. But details on the game were not provided due to the uncertainty of what the final game will entail.
Writer Sam Maggs has suggested in the past that the title could be a sequel to Call of Duty: Vanguard, saying at New York Comic-Con in 2021 (via VGC) “we have two more stories that we really want to tell with these characters.” Sledgehammer Games’ ambitions to make a sequel might not come to fruition though, with Call of Duty: Vanguard failing to meet Activision’s expectations.
Bloomberg first reported that Call of Duty will not be releasing a premium title in 2023, because the publisher believes that they could be releasing premium Call of Duty titles too rapidly, which was a reason for Vanguard’s poor sales. However, the news by Bloomberg did not confirm or deny that Call of Duty will be moving away from annual releases indefinitely. Even if such plans were the case, the decision could be reversed once the acquisition by Microsoft is finalized.
Following the Bloomberg report, an Activision spokesperson said, “We have an exciting slate of premium and free-to-play Call of Duty experiences for this year, next year, and beyond. Reports of anything otherwise are incorrect. We look forward to sharing more details when the time is right.”
These comments are likely referring to two free-to-play Call of Duty projects in development. Call of Duty: Warzone mobile is scoped to release later this year, with Warzone 2 releasing in 2023.
To fill the void of not releasing a premium Call of Duty title in 2023, it seems that Activision is also planning on releasing a third Call of Duty project within the two-year window. No details have been given on the project officially, but one likely title could be a standalone Call of Duty zombies project that I first heard about last year that was in pre-production. The title could be a good compromise for Call of Duty zombies fans, who seemingly won’t be getting a classic zombies experience in Modern Warfare 2.
There is a separate Call of Duty zombies project in early development, that is currently not connected to any title.
— Tom Henderson (@_Tom_Henderson_) February 23, 2021
With Sledgehammer’s next title, one developer had suggested anonymously that the plan could just be a “gap year” for the series, with yearly releases resuming soon after. The theory is based on the studio being given until 2025 to complete its next Call of Duty project. Nevertheless, game development is a very fluid process and the date could easily be changed based on the data gained from the release of Treyarch’s title in 2024. But this snippet of information does suggest that we shouldn’t rule out annual premium Call of Duty titles moving forward and Activision seemingly has all of their bases covered for the franchise.
Such plans can be hinted at publically too, with Sledgehammer Games seemingly ramping up acquiring developer talent, rather than losing them. According to the studio’s LinkedIn, its seen over a 21% increase in talent this past year, with a 7% growth in the past six months. In addition, the studio doesn’t seem to be slowing down on hiring either, with over 60 jobs open (the same amount as last year) across its four studios based in Australia, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Sledgehammer Games now stands at almost 500 employees, putting the studio on par in size with Call of Duty’s other two main studios, Treyarch and Infinity Ward.
With the acquisition expected to be finalized by summer 2023, no one really knows the future of Call of Duty. Today’s plans could be changed in an instant tomorrow, but one thing is certain – We’re at least getting a Call of Duty title this year developed by Infinity Ward. Sources have said the title has two years of content being planned across all of its modes, and I’ll report on more details when I hear more.
Activision has seemingly covered all of its bases for any scenario that may arise in the next couple of years, with several Call of Duty experiences in various stages of production. If anything, it seems like we’ll be getting more Call of Duty games rather than less moving forward.