This weekend, Kotaku is reporting that Activision’s Call of Duty title for next year is going through a “major upheaval,” with the publisher informing studios Raven and Sledgehammer that they were no longer in charge of the game’s development, despite leading the project until now.
Activision has been releasing Call of Duty titles on a one per year schedule since 2005, and in order to keep up with that schedule going forward after this year the company needed to make some major changes. Currently, every years one of three developers–Treyarch, Infinity Ward, or Sledgehammer–is responsible for a new Call of Duty game. For 2019, word on the street is that the next Call of Duty is a new Modern Warfare by Infinity Ward.
Sledgehammer and Raven were reportedly developing their Call of Duty game set during the Cold War (most likely centered on Vietnam) for next year, but Activision has decided to have Treyarch helm another Black Ops game instead. With Black Ops 4 just releasing last year, this means a very tight turnaround schedule for Treyarch, shortening their accustomed development time by a third.
According to Kotaku’s report, a major factor in their decision is “tension” between Raven and Sledgehammer, with both companies arguing frequently about the direction of the project, describing the relationship as “a mess.” Co-founders Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey both left Sledgehammer and then Activision last year, with Condrey joining a new 2K development studio owned by Take-Two Interactive earlier this year.
Both Raven and Sledgehammer will now be working to support Treyarch on Black Ops 5. The development work that’s already been done by Raven and Sledgehammer on the single-player content will likely be converted to a campaign for Black Ops 5, which will please players disappointed with the focus on multiplayer in Black Ops 4. Kotaku’s report also speculates that the upcoming entry into the franchise will be “cross-gen” and release for the upcoming PlayStation 5 and the next-generation Xbox.
Speaking with Kotaku, some developers at the companies indicated that they were not looking forward to the shorter development window, as it obviously means more crunch. Others view the change as a net positive and are happy to have a solid plan to follow going forward.
Kotaku also reported that executives at Activision are starting to explore free-to-play models after being disappointed in the overall revenue from Black Ops 4, even though its sales were remarkably strong. Three of Kotaku’s sources also report that Activision is considering some unspecified free-to-play component in this year’s Modern Warfare, despite some ongoing resistance from Activision executives.