A New Studio, Longer Development Cycle for Call of Duty
Activision is shifting the Call of Duty franchise to a three-year development cycle, giving each installment nearly 50% more time in the creative oven.
That doesn’t mean the annual-release-schedule will be broken. Activision made the announcement in its quarterly conference call last night, explaining that Sledgehammer Games will join Infinity Ward and Treyarch as the third full-time CoD studio. Sledgehammer has already been working on its CoD game for two-plus years, and will launch it later this year. Treyarch is up next, with a game we expect to be Black Ops 3 in 2015, followed by Infinity Ward in 2016. And then back to Sledgehammer in 2017.
So it will still be all CoD all the time, but at least now its creators will have the time they need to do something at least slightly different. Oh, and pack in more DLC and microtransactions. Here’s how Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg described the new three-studio, three-year-dev-cycle CoD model (emphasis added):
“This will give our designers more time to envision and 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 will give our teams more time to polish, helping ensure we deliver the best possible experience to our fans each and every time.”
The more things change…
As for Activision as a whole in its fiscal 2013 fourth quarter, the results were better than anticipated. Call of Duty: Ghosts was the top-selling game overall, Activision said, the Skylander franchise continues to rule the toys/videogames crossover market, and World of Warcraft subscriptions have evened out at 7.8 million. Those sales led to $1.5 billion in revenue for the quarter and a grand total of $4.58 billion for the year.
While that’s not quite the high of $4.85 billion in revenue Activision generated in fiscal 2012, the publisher said it believes it will return to net growth in fiscal 2014 with the launch of Bungie’s long-awaited shooter, Destiny, Call of Duty Online releasing in China, and Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls hitting PC along with Blizzard’s new collectible card game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, and MOBA, Heroes of the Storm.