Franchise Enters Three-Yearly Rotation
Call Of Duty is no longer a two-horse race. After assisting Infinity Ward and Treyarch from behind the scenes for years, Sledgehammer Games are finally getting their chance to prove their mettle, and will be fully responsible for developing this year's Call Of Duty.
It's high time that the franchise received some fresh blood, and hopefully Sledgehammer might be able inject new life into the series - an opportunity that Ghosts never managed to capitalise on.
Mind you, a renewed "focus on DLC and micro DLC" might raise a few eyebrows. Click below, crank up the Peter Gabriel and let's take a closer look at how they can accomplish their new mission... so long as they're brave enough to do so.
Announcing the news in a recent investor call, Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshbirg pointed out that this new three-year rotation will give each game more time to refine their mechanics and quality. "There are several advantages to doing this," he said. "This first is of course quality; this will give our designers more time to envision and to innovate for each title."
"Simultaneously it will give our content creators more focus on DLC and micro DLC which, as you know, have become large and high-margin opportunities, and significant engagement drivers."
"Finally, it'll give our teams more time to polish, making sure that we relive the best possible experience to our fans each and every time."
Be in no doubt: this is a fantastic decision. Accusations of stagnation are levelled against Call Of Duty on a daily basis, due mainly to the bi-yearly release cycle, meaning that throwing a new studio in the mix should be a perfect opportunity to force franchise detractors to eat their words.
However, Sledgehammer will need to seize this opportunity with both hands if they want to really make a difference and push Call Of Duty forward. In effect, they need to reinvent Call Of Duty by bringing something fresh and new to the table. Ghosts should have done just that, as the first game on next-gen platforms, but it trod water and caught a fair bit of flack in the process.
As I see it, there are two ways that they can fulfil their new mandate.
First off, seeing as Sledgehammer were rumoured to be working on a Sci-Fi action adventure title, they're be well-placed to take Call Of Duty in an exciting new direction. A futuristic setting brings scope for wildly new guns, new faces, new set pieces and most importantly of all new mechanics to the table; perhaps making more of Ghost's space sections that were so sadly under-utilised. There's nothing to stop Treyarch and Infinity Ward from returning to type later on; maybe it's time to push the boat out and demonstrate that Activision can handle real innovation.
Or, perhaps, pulling things back might be the right way to go. The original Modern Warfare was so superb because it felt raw, plausible and down-to-Earth, but each successive entry tried to be bigger and brasher, ultimately leading to the unintentional self-parodies of MW3 and Ghosts. The set pieces kept getting more ridiculous and frequent, yet progressively less impactful. Sledgehammer Games could easily strip back the bluster and bombast to focus on gritty, real warfare, while providing opportunities for more freeform stealth and even squad tactics. With Rainbow Six: Patriots still KIA, there's a gap in the market for a more tactical approach to triple-A shooting.
Oh, and a brand new engine probably couldn't hurt.
Either way, we hope that Sledgehammer live up to their name, and go in all guns blazing. Call Of Duty is crying out for brave new ideas and fresh thinking - while maintaining the multiplayer as the hectic, ridiculous, wonderful thing it has always been.
Though if the worst comes to the worst, we've always got Treyarch to fall back on.