Activision Blizzard has announced plans to release “another strong premium” Call of Duty game in the fourth quarter of 2021.
The news was revealed by chief financial officer Dennis Durkin during the publisher’s fourth quarter earnings call on Thursday.
It’s unclear which studio is making the next entry in the series, which had rotated development duties between Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games for several iterations until 2020, giving each team a three-year creation cycle.
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Activision reportedly overhauled its plans for 2020’s Call of Duty game following a dispute between previous joint lead studios Sledgehammer and Raven Software, putting Treyarch in charge of the follow-up to 2019’s Modern Warfare, Black Ops Cold War, which released two years after its previous game, 2018’s Black Ops 4.
Sledgehammer said in May 2020 that it was working on multiple projects. The studio was founded in 2009 and is best known for Call of Duty titles Advanced Warfare (2014) and WWII (2017).
Activision Blizzard claimed during its earnings call on Thursday that the Call of Duty franchise has generated $27 billion in lifetime sales since launching in 2003.
The figure “makes it one of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time”, president and COO Daniel Alegre said.
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick also said Call of Duty attracted over 250 million players in 2020, up from 70 million in 2018.
Likely driven by the popularity of free-to-play games Call of Duty Warzone and Call of Duty Mobile, the brand “sustained more than 100 million monthly active players” for a fifth consecutive quarter (up from 40 million in 2018).
Call of Duty premium unit sales grew more than 40% year-over-year in 2020, with a continued “strong shift” to digital downloads, helping the franchise achieve annual net bookings of “approximately double the year ago level”, Activision said.
Black Ops Cold War was the best-selling game of 2020 in the US, followed by Modern Warfare, marking a 12th consecutive year that a Call of Duty game has ranked as the No.1 title, according to market research firm NPD Group.
The first season of Black Ops Cold War and Warzone content has seen the most Battle Passes consumed since the introduction of the new in-game system in late 2019, Activision Blizzard said on Thursday.
Given the franchise’s success, Activision Blizzard said it plans to apply the Call of Duty framework across its other brands, mixing multiplatform, free-to-play and premium experiences. In line with this strategy, it announced that multiple free-to-play Warcraft mobile games are deep in development.
The latest major Black Ops Cold War update released this week, adding new Zombies and multiplayer content, fresh modes and featured playlists, plus gameplay improvements, bug fixes and weapon tuning.
Headlining the update were new Zombies map Firebase Z, which is set in the jungles of Vietnam, and 6v6 multiplayer map Express, which was originally included in Black Ops 2 and takes place in a hi-tech train station.