Call of Duty is returning to its roots as a World War II game. Activision and Sledgehammer Games confirmed today that Sledgehammer is working on Call of Duty: World War II for this year’s release in the top-selling series in the gaming industry.
Activision will reveal more details in a 10 a.m. livestream on April 26. The stream will feature Sledgehammer Games co-studio heads and founders Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield. The news confirms a leak from a few weeks ago which show images from the game in a World War II setting. It so happens that Condrey and Schofield are speaking at our GamesBeat Summit 2017 event on May 1 in Berkeley, California.
The move shows that Activision and its studios are clearly aware of the conflict between giving fans what they want and giving the creators some breathing room to avoid creative exhaustion for the annual billion-dollar franchise. Call of Duty games have sold more than 250 million copies since 2003, generating more than $15 billion in revenues.
The series started out as a World War II game, inspired by rival Medal of Honor and films like Saving Private Ryan. Activision kept on generating sequels, but the last one to focus on World War II was Call of Duty: World at War, which Treyarch developed and released in 2008.
After that, starting in 2009, Call of Duty moved to modern warfare. Sledgehammer moved the game to a near-future setting with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in 2014, and Infinity Ward took the franchise into science fiction with last year’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Players still bought the game, but they criticized Infinite Warfare’s move into sci-fi, while Electronic Arts took its Battlefield 1 game to the past with World War I. Battlefield 1 is widely believed to have taken market share from Infinite Warfare.
Activision now has three studios rotating the annual game: Sledgehammer, Infinity Ward, and Treyarch. And Sledgehammer would have started working on this game in late 2014, based on that rotation. So it is very unlikely that Activision simply pivoted to World War II just because of last year’s results.
I am looking forward to the return to World War II, since the technology for gaming has moved forward, and the developers can now revisit it with a fresh energy and more inspired approach.
The company shared just the one image of the grizzled veteran American soldier. It reminds me of the “1,000-yard stare” images from the mythology of modern war. But if you look closely, you can see in the soldier’s eyes that he appears to be looking at a squad of soldiers. He is holding a dog tag in his hands, and those hands seem to be cupping the top of a rifle or a shovel. I’m not sure what that means, but I suppose we’ll find out on April 26.