By all accounts, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War (BOCW) has had a rough life cycle, what with all the bugs and glitches players keep finding within the game. Because of the disruption caused by the pandemic, it’s clear BOCW should not have been released when it did.
However, even with BOCW’s slower sales and the myriad of issues plaguing the game, Activision is still planning to release a game in 2021.
The question is: why?
To put it very simply, money. Call of Duty is one of the most profitable names in all of media– every year, the newest installment brings in over $500 million in revenue within the first few days, weeks and months.
For example, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) brought in over $600 million in just three days. Meanwhile, BOCW brought in $600 million in about six weeks, which is markedly slower than Modern Warfare but still a large number nonetheless. Regardless of the developer and name of the game, it is almost guaranteed that a Call of Duty game will make money during the entirety of its lifecycle.
That said, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the gaming industry as a whole, not just Call of Duty. Though video game sales have shot through the roof with more people staying at home and isolating, the quality of the games have suffered as a result.
Take the aforementioned BOCW as an example.
BOCW’s development was already rocky to begin with, as Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software had a tenuous relationship regarding the game’s direction. As such, Activision tasked Treyarch with finishing the game as quickly as possible.
It is also important to note that a global pandemic broke out. So, not only was Treyarch told to finish a game two developers could not see eye-to-eye on, they also had to do it from home with obviously inferior equipment. Even the voice actors had to find workarounds to record their lines and make sure they did their jobs properly.
Although a lot of credit has to go to everyone involved in the creation of BOCW, it is clear the game needed a few more months of polish.
It was riddled with bugs and glitches, a lack of content and a plague of more and more issues popping up by the day. A quick look on the BOCW subreddit shows the assortment of bugs and glitches players had to deal with whenever they play the game or even just boot it up.
With all the issues players have had with BOCW due to the pandemic, it makes sense for the next Call of Duty title to be postponed until 2022 so that the developers will not have to deal with extreme circumstances just to work on a game. However, considering how 2020 has gone for Activision financially, the hope of seeing a postponed Call of Duty title is more fiction than reality.
In 2020, more than 250 million people played Call of Duty, the most in its history, according to Activision.
As a whole, more than 100 million people play Call of Duty on a monthly basis across all platforms, which is a feat in and of itself. By having such a consistent player base, Activision has a steady stream of players ready to play a Call of Duty title at almost any given time.
That is why in an earnings call on Feb. 4, Dennis M. Durkin – the Chief Financial Officer and President of Emerging Businesses at Activision Blizzard – stated that the company is planning to release a new premium Call of Duty title in the fourth quarter of 2021. It is unknown who will develop the next title, but if the release of BOCW is something to go by, it is clear that a Call of Duty title should not be released this year.
However, this is easier said than done. Though vaccines are becoming more readily available to the general public, there are still too many unknowns regarding the pandemic. Having a game release this year – presumably a game both worked on at home and in the studio – will not bode well, as evidenced by how BOCW has turned out.
Additionally, if 2020’s sales figures are any indication, it would seem Activision would be fine with not having a release in 2021. Call of Duty: Warzone, Modern Warfare, and Mobile are doing well, and it stands to reason that fans would rather play games that have been polished enough than a game that was just released for the sake of profits and keeping the yearly release cycle intact.
Also, the practice of releasing a game from the same franchise every year should be changed, but that is a subject for another time. Nevertheless, the point still remains: no matter what happens, there should not be a Call of Duty title released in 2021.
The developers will appreciate the extra time to polish the game and the fans, quite frankly, will understand.