Call of Duty, arguably the most popular first-person shooter franchise (my respects to Counter Strike), has been releasing a game per year since 2005’s Call of Duty 2, alternating among its main labels: “regular” (focused on WWII), Modern Warfare (with current/modern conflicts and technology), Black Ops and Ghosts, the latest addition. The studios Treyarch and Infinity Ward have been responsible for most of the installments.
For supporting its aggressive yearly plan, Activision (the behemoth behind Call of Duty) decided that a two-year development cycle was necessary, leaving little room for creative exploration. No deadline could be missed (ever!).
Although the move has proved to be extremely successful in terms of sales (2012’s Black Ops II earned $500 million in one day), the games’ quality was affected, especially the single-player experience. Actually, it’s interesting to see the disparity between the reviews gave by publishers and the ones gave by users. In other words, lately each new game started to feel like a minor tweak to the previous installment.
Hoping to change the turn of the tides (and to keep its spot as the FPS king), Activision now has decided to change its release strategy a bit, investing more on each title. Therefore, from now on the franchise will switch to a three-year development cycle, giving one more year to each game.
In order to keep the lucrative annual-release business alive, Sledgehammer Games has joined the party to develop a new Call of Duty entry, which will be launched this year. It isn’t its first time with the brand, though, as it had worked on Modern Warfare 3 (2011).
All of us here at Sledgehammer Games have a shared vision to create the best work of our lives. The next Call of Duty represents a new era for this amazing franchise, and we look forward to sharing what we have been working on.
This means that there will be 3 ongoing labels being developed at the same time: Modern Warfare (by Sledgehammer Games), Black Ops (by Treyarch) and Ghosts (by Infinity Ward). According to Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg, this means “more time to focus on DLC and micro-DLC,” and “more time to polish”.
Although having annual releases has been good for some series (FIFA, Assassin’s Creed), many times it feels too forced, with only minor improvements over the mechanics (besides new content). That’s why Activision’s new move (keeping the yearly strategy but investing more on each game) sounds like a good decision to me, for the company and the players.