Speaking during a call to investors, Activision announced that FPS mega-franchise Call of Duty will move to a three-year development cycle, allowing Sledgehammer Games to direct the annual release for 2014. Eric Hirshberg, the company’s president and CEO, believes the change will inject a degree of variety into the series, which gives existing developers Treyarch and Infinity Ward three years to create a new title as opposed to two.
“[The change] will give our designers more time to envision and innovate for each title. It will give our content creators more focus on DLC and micro-DLC which … have become large and high-margin opportunities and significant engagement drivers. It will give our teams more time to polish, helping to ensure that we deliver the best possible experience to our fans each and every time.”
Founded in 2009, Sledgehammer Games is perhaps most notable for their work on Modern Warfare 3. Since then, the studio has co-developed various DLC packs for Call of Duty, though 2014 will mark their first outing at the project’s helm. Activision refused to reveal the setting for the new release, though it seems likely that Sledgehammer will return to the modern day milieu.
Elsewhere in the conference, the company also revealed its net revenues for the year, which stooped from $4.86 billion to $4.58 billion. And although this doesn’t openly reflect the status of the Call of Duty franchise, Activision’s decision to bring a new studio to the developing roster will help to invigorate the brand as a whole — particularly after the somewhat lacklustre reception of Ghosts.
While there will still be a new iteration of the series every year, providing Treyarch, Infinity Ward and now Sledgehammer with an extended developing window could allow Activision to expand the pixelated horizons of Call of Duty beyond repetitive campaigns and age-old military tropes. Considering that Ghosts witnessed a 19% sales drop in comparison to Black Ops II, franchise fatigue is a very real proposition for Hirshberg and his team.