Phew! Activision Blizzard have been acquired by Microsoft, and that means no more Bobby K, and a new dawn for Call of Duty. Here's to no more annual releases!
If you've been living under a rock and didn't catch the news: Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard for $70bn. This is groundbreaking for the whole industry, but for Call of Duty fans in particular, it raised a lot of questions. Will Xbox gain exclusivity of CoD? Will the backing of such a huge company finally resolve Warzone's many problems? And, of course, will this finally mean the end of annual releases?
What Does Microsoft Acquiring Activision Blizzard Mean for CoD?
It allows Activision Blizzard to be more experimental, as we've seen in Bethesda, and gives them access to Microsoft's GPT-3 language model for AI. With the backing of a company whose market cap is 2.5 trillion, Activision Blizzard can be more creative and risky. They aren't as beholden to their annual release schedule because they will have funding regardless.
And as we also mentioned, Microsoft's Azure program powers a supercomputer that has exclusive access to the GPT-3 language model, which is the most advanced of its kind in the world. This might not result in anything for consumers in the next few years, but in the long term it has huge potential for Call of Duty as a future AI dev tool. Who knows, they might be in a position to produce the next big thing in shooters.
Are Annual Releases A Problem For CoD?
Yes, releasing Call of Duty games every year has clearly compromised the final product in recent CoD history. The worst example of this is probably Vanguard, which was supposed to come out in 2020 but wasn't ready, so we had BOCW instead (which also wasn't ready and felt outdated on the previous engine). Now you could argue that this might just be because Sledgehammer can't do what Infinity Ward and Treyarch do, but all three studios have suffered at least in part because of this time pressure. The third-mode from each game is a good example of this. Even the beloved Modern Warfare (2019) clearly needed more time when you look at their Spec-Ops mode. Oof.
What's should they do with Call of Duty instead? They should work on releasing games every other year and making Warzone more of its own standalone live-service game. Treyarch should take over all Zombies endeavors and the competitive scene, Sledgehammer should do the campaign (because in fairness to them, they can do this part well), and Infinity Ward should develop the multiplayer. But also, Microsoft needs to work on breaking down the distinctions between various CoD studios when Phil Spencer is CEO. Treyarch can lend Infinity Ward a hand when it comes to map design, but similarly, Infinity Ward needs to share their fantastically talented animators.
This is the way. And if you think CoD is in a fine state right now, then allow us to disagree…