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Activision Blizzard pulled out some pretty big guns yesterday with Call of Duty Modern Warfare II newsThe new part of Call of Duty is coming out on my birthday on October 28th.
The company needed to do just that, after wandering the desert because of game delays and a gruesome sexual harassment lawsuit. Activision Blizzard always seems to deliver bad news, even to the point where they decided to sell themselves to Microsoft for $68.5 billion.
We still have to see if these guns shoot straight, as we’ll find out how good the game is with the multiplayer beta starting today. But based on what it shows, the scale of Activision’s investment in Call of Duty is pretty staggering.
With this kind of investment, I feel like Microsoft should give Call of Duty to Sony and any other platform that wants it after acquiring Activision Blizzard. Activision Blizzard’s strategy is set to monetize as many platforms as possible. I think Sony may have to worry about losing the exclusive right to get the Call of Duty beta a week before Xbox and PC, but there’s no need to worry that Microsoft will remove Call of Duty from PlayStation users in the future.
It’s got at least seven and more than eleven game studios working on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II – probably 2,000 game developers by my estimation – including team leaders Infinity Ward, Beenox and Raven Software. That’s a pretty big clue that the size of the investment has changed.
To review COD history, Infinity Ward started Call of Duty back in 2003. Treyarch joined the Call of Duty roster in 2005, and then Sledgehammer joined in 2011. After a while messy divorce With the founders of Infinity Ward (who then started Respawn), Activision started a rotation, with a major studio making a game every three years so that a three-year high-quality project could have may be released each year. Activision has easily overtaken EA’s DICE studio, which makes a new Battlefield game every few years. And Call of Duty has become the billion-dollar annual franchise that dominates the lucrative first-person shooter market.
That worked well until a new hiatus came in 2017 with rival PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), the pioneer of the first massively popular battle royale title. PUBG has sold more than 75 million so far, and it sent Activision into a state of panic.
Activision launched in 2019 with Call of Duty: Mobile developed by Tencent TiMi Studios for Activision. This free-to-play mobile title has generated over 650 million downloads, expanding the channel for Call of Duty games. But at first, Activision studios reacted to PUBG with relative Battle royale reacts poorly game, as it was caught off-guard by PUBG.
Then it generates a number major changes of the studio, marshals its resources and kicks off a big comeback with the launch of the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone. Coming in March 2020 when the pandemic broke out, Warzone’s social game was a godsend for those at home to play remotely with each other. It was a huge success with over 125 million downloads. The result of mobile, battle royale and Modern Warfare 2019 is a massive increase in Call of Duty players worldwide.
The next two phases – Cold War and Vanguard – were weaker and the advantage was wasted. But the company has continued to invest more. The success of Warzone has stunned even Activision and it has decided to double down on the battle royale series and the free-to-play franchise. And that’s how it launched yesterday’s three-barreled shotgun blast.
The next generation of Call of Duty
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II will launch on October 28 with both single-player and multiplayer campaigns. The campaign has been toned down a bit from the disturbing massacres of civilians in Modern Warfare 2019. It’s more focused on fun as well as a mainstream audience.
Above all Warzone 2.0 will launch on November 16, with a brand new map, better graphics, and gameplay improvements like underwater combat. It was created with the same proprietary game engine as Modern Warfare II, Warzone Mobile, coming in 2023. These three projects represent an effort to unify the Call of Duty experience across all platforms for gamers. In addition, Ricochet Anti-Cheat technology seems to have significantly reduced cheating in online play.
The graphics look pretty amazing, especially the versions targeting high-end PCs, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5. Yesterday’s demos showed a lot of beauty when it comes to game design.
You can outwit multiplayer enemies with inflatable decoy soldiers. You can fight in massive 32v32 battles with dozens of AI characters fighting in the game battlefield. You can hang on a ledge. You can lean on the car window and shoot. You can dive underwater and ambush someone on the shore. Multiple circles converge in the final moments of Warzone.
Warzone 2.0 has a large map with subdivisions that are maps from the multiplayer game. It’s like the game designers actually talked to each other in the studios. The first matches of Warzone 2.0 gameplay yesterday looked pretty awesome, followed by a thrilling victory for streamer NickMercs.
All of these improvements reflect careful attention to detail, and they may be enough to convince players to return to a seemingly faltering intellectual property. After Battlefield’s poor performance last year, Activision Blizzard has an opportunity to regain a lot of lost props and more.
The competitive premise in the first-person shooter market is getting bigger and bigger. Call me a Call of Duty fan boy. But I’m going directly to Call of Duty this year. And opponents can do well to rush out of the way.
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