Game development

Call of Duty could possibly ditch the annual schedule; Activision Blizzard employees cautiously optimistic about Microsoft deal

Call of Duty has been on a yearly schedule since the third installment, launched in 2006, just a year after Call of Duty 2. Since then, it’s been one of the few certainties in the gaming industry: every new year would feature invariably another entry in the increasingly popular first-person shooter franchise, much like FIFA and other sports titles.

This may change in the future, however. A new Bloomberg report cites discussions at the highest levels of Activision Blizzard regarding the possibility of finally abandoning the annual calendar. Incidentally, this apparently has nothing to do with Microsoft’s planned acquisition of the company.

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Apparently, the Call of Duty developers had already expressed their belief that slowing down the release schedule would be appealing to gamers while giving game designers the ability to take bolder risks during development. It could also lighten the workload, help avoid excessive crunch, and open up the possibility of working on other Activision Blizzard IPs. It’s something that Phil Spencer, head of games at Microsoft, seemed very enthusiastic about in a recent interview, probably because it would expand the Game Pass portfolio even further.

It is, after all, the same path Ubisoft took with Assassin’s Creed. When the popularity of this franchise began to wane after pushing annual installments for a while, Ubisoft was forced to let it sit for a few years. When he returned, he did so without resuming the previous annual schedule. The new formula has proven itself so far, as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the franchise’s latest entry, eventually became the second-most profit-generating game in the publisher’s history.

Change is not expected to happen any time soon. 2022 will indeed deliver a new Call of Duty courtesy of Infinity Ward, with rumors pointing to a sequel to 2019’s Modern Warfare with an Escape from Tarkov mode in place of Zombies/Spec Ops. In other Call of Duty news, Phil Spencer confirmed yesterday that the franchise will remain on PlayStation platforms, although it’s not yet clear which game he was referring to.

On that note, the Bloomberg report also mentions the early reactions of Activision Blizzard employees to the massive announcement that Microsoft plans to acquire the company for nearly $70 billion. The general feeling seems to be one of cautious optimism, as most are convinced that Phil Spencer should prove to be a better and stronger leader than Bobby Kotick. They’re also eager to experience a company that has so far proven to be more passive when it comes to game development, having learned from the mistakes of the past. At the same time, some employees are understandably concerned that the acquisition could lead to layoffs, even though Activision Blizzard’s current CEO, Bobby Kotick, has told staff that Microsoft is committed to trying to retain as many as possible.