Game Theory

5 reasons why Call of Duty needs to break series tradition after Vanguard

Activision’s premier franchise should seriously take a breather...

Call of Duty: Vanguard will be revealed on August 18, with developer Sledgehammer Games set to debut a multi-destination World War II experience that differs greatly from the likes of Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War. But, the shift in era be damned, there’s no denying 2022 seems like the perfect time for mainline Call of Duty games to take a break.

Here are five reasons why it might benefit Activision to shelf its premier shooter for at least one year.

5. Warzone offers flexibility

Call of Duty: Warzone is a massive success for Activision, with around 100 million active players as of April 2021, according to Statista. While the game’s community likely agrees not everything has been perfect for the free application, there’s enough of a shift happening for the Call of Duty brand that it buys Activision some time to be more nimble with the franchise than it may have previously been.

Warzone’s success affords Activision the opportunity to get unique with Call of Duty going forward.Raven Software/Activision

Now that this ongoing platform version of Call of Duty exists, do fans really need a new mainline series entry every year? Probably not. Especially given how popular Modern Warfare and Warzone were as a package in 2019, it feels like gamers almost would’ve preferred another seasonal year for those two titles instead of the mixed Black Ops Cold War offering that came the following year. Call of Duty exists far differently than it used to thanks to Warzone. Why not take a more fluid development approach now that you can?

4. Call of Duty reborn

Warzone’s ongoing success means that yearly installments aren’t exactly necessary to keep the franchise’s momentum going. Developers could instead take extra time to think about what a Call of Duty release needs to look like in 2022 and beyond.

More specifically, with Warzone beginning to dominate the series’ multiplayer conversation, is it possible that a mainline Call of Duty game could be released that doesn’t feature competitive multiplayer at all? Could more emphasis be placed on campaigns and Zombies instead? The reality is we know almost exactly what each yearly Call of Duty offering is going to look like in the fall. Selling that content in a different arrangement might liven things up a bit.

3. It’s easier on development

Until recently, tales of game development inside Activision had been kept fairly quiet, but even with that intense cloud of secrecy, reports have still found their way to the surface that suggest development for both Black Ops Cold War and Call of Duty: Vanguard have been a bit of a mess.

Treyarch famously had to rush Black Ops Cold War out the door in 2020 because Vanguard needed more work, and earlier this year, Call of Duty leaker Tom Henderson tweeted this year’s game is expected to “underperform” with a “recovery roadmap” already in the works prior to the title even being revealed.

It’s becoming clear that Activision’s traditional three-year development cycle for the series is starting to run its developers ragged. Before quality suffers to an irreparable degree, Activision should take an extra year to regroup and reevaluate its timelines given the increased constraints of modern content creation.

2. More time to miss something

This argument has been made many times in the past, but, the longer gamers have to wait for something, the more hype, and often sales success, the final product receives. If the next Call of Duty game is the first franchise entry since 2007 to abandon the yearly refresh tradition, it’s going to make fans more excited to see what its developing studio has to offer.

Taking a break could give gamers time to feel better about Activision in general.Sledgehammer Games/Activision

On a revised schedule there can be an entire year’s worth of speculation, intrigue, and promotion to keep players engaged. And, especially with a massively popular live platform like Warzone in Activision’s arsenal, there’s time for some truly masterful viral marketing campaigns to be enacted over those long stretches of time. The year off might give Activision more time to react to what its community is talking about and speculating, which could lead to a truly fascinating hype cycle. If you want to grab the attention of fans who may be tired of the same old thing, defy expectation to make that audience bigger.

1. A win for perception

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t touch on some of the legal trouble Activision is currently facing, with the state of California targeting the publisher for its unfair treatment of women in the workplace.

The sad reality is that much of the public will likely forget about this story by the time fall 2022 arrives, but that doesn’t mean the harsh realities are gone for those who work behind those walls. Over the next several months there are likely going to be major changes internally, and it may be difficult for employees to cope.

For once, it’d be nice to see Activision make a move for the betterment of its workforce rather than its products. The studio could benefit from taking the time to evaluate its practices first before moving forward with another major Call of Duty release. Back catalogs and Warzone should help keep books balanced, as a publisher shifting focus away from its biggest property allows employees to heal. That message of a delay for healing might also do some good to win back some of the frustrated players this lawsuit may have lost.

An Activision that’s not always looking for the next big cash grab is an Activision fans can get behind.

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