It was announced that future Call of Duty games would be moving to a three year development cycle split among three studios. Treyarch (Black Ops), Infinity Ward (Ghosts, Modern Warfare), and Sledgehammer (MW3). While we will still get Call of Duty games with Madden like annual releases, this new plan gives game developers more time to make their games. Can people get excited about this franchise again or has it plateaued?
The first of these studios to launch a game under this plan will be Sledgehammer later this year. Sledgehammer, founded in 2009, previously worked on Modern Warfare 3’s single player campaign and features leads who have ties to the Dead Space franchise. Certainly MW3 wasn’t Call of Duty’s best outing but for anyone who keeps up with the industry, you’ll remember Sledgehammer was brought in only a year before the game was suppose to release. It’ll be exciting to see what this team can do with a full three years to build a game for next-gen from the ground up. If we had to place bets, Sledgehammer will want to distance themselves from the stigma of MW3 by introducing a new Call of Duty property rather than sequel any current games.
Over the course of the last two years, Call of Duty fans have been more vocal about what’s wrong with the franchise. Complaints seem to boil down to the “been there, done that” syndrome. Activision seems to finally understand that these games aren’t sports titles; there’s no roster to update or superstar player to focus on each year. Each series in the franchise has a story to tell and a time to tell it in. After that, developers should move on to the next thing instead of beating the dead horse. This new cycle plan will help those concerns by allowing developers more time for experimenting with new ideas for their games. In a perfect world, we’d see less DLC because it would be done along with the games release in order to be included.
However one fear most are overlooking is inconsistency among the three studios. Fans who get use to one studios version of multiplayer, sometimes come to next years title mistified at how different it is from the previous years release. CoD’s multiplayer system peaked in Modern Warfare 2 and was changed just enough in Black Ops to be noticeable yet familiar. The current jump from Black Ops 2 to Ghosts was staggering, multiplayer felt so different, some felt put off by it. While innovation can only help an annual franchise feel fresh, there has to be some kind of continuity among the three studios. Each game should take what worked previously and include it in some way. Since we’re in a new generation of consoles, developers should also consider including a way to give us the old maps back in upcoming games. I still miss the container yard from CoD 4: Modern Warfare.
So what can we expect in Call of Duty’s future? We know Infnity Ward still has three pieces of extensive DLC to release. There jump from zombies to aliens with Extinction mode was a step in the right direction. What’s most exciting is going forward, we could potentially never have to go more than three months before we see new Call of Duty content in some form. Now just make it worth caring about.