What Will 2020's New Call Of Duty Game Be?

Surprising absolutely no one, Activision Blizzard has confirmed that a new Call of Duty game is set for release in 2020; however, curiously, the company has not yet confirmed which team is developing the title. For eight years, Activision Blizzard has maintained a strict pattern when it’s come to Call of Duty’s development cycle. So when, on the February 2019 Activision quarterly call, the publisher remained coy about which of its developers is working on the Call of Duty game scheduled for 2020, it led to speculation that something unexpected may be afoot this time around.

To delve into what could be in the works for 2020’s Call of Duty, we’re going to have to look back at several years of Call of Duty history and examine how Activision has traditionally handled reveals for the franchise.

Activision has managed to get a new Call of Duty game out the door every year since 2005’s Call of Duty 2 (though you could argue that, technically, a new game has come out every year from the very beginning if you count 2004’s Call of Duty: Finest Hour, the console version of the original 2003 PC game). There are four Activision studios currently associated with Call of Duty development–Infinity Ward, Treyarch, Raven Software, and Sledgehammer Games. The first two have been mainstays, while the latter two initially served as support studios. For Sledgehammer, that changed in the last decade, as Activision made the developer the main studio behind Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Call of Duty: WWII.

Initially, Activision went back and forth between Infinity Ward and Treyarch, having the two complete Call of Duty games in two years while Sledgehammer and Raven supported the two where needed. From 2012 through 2019, however, Activision adopted and maintained a new pattern with Call of Duty: Treyarch releases a Call of Duty game, then Infinity Ward, then Sledgehammer, and then the three repeat in that order. This gives each studio a buffer of about three years between each game they make, which probably makes it easier for Activision to maintain its annual Call of Duty release schedule.

In 2012, Treyarch released Black Ops II, and went on to make 2015’s Black Ops III and 2018’s Black Ops 4. In 2013, Infinity Ward released Ghosts, and then followed with 2016’s Infinite Warfare and 2019’s Modern Warfare. Sledgehammer released Advanced Warfare in 2014 and then WWII in 2017–the developer should be scheduled to release its third Call of Duty game in 2020, assuming the trend continues, and followed by Treyarch releasing its next game in 2021.

Or at least, that should be the plan, but Activision hasn’t confirmed whether that’s the case. According to Kotaku, Activision was already handling the release of 2020’s Call of Duty a little differently, partnering up Sledgehammer with Raven to tackle the project together, similarly to how Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer partnered on Modern Warfare 3. A slight change, but nothing that would disrupt Activision’s pattern.

But, according to that same Kotaku report, things have not been on track for Sledgehammer and Raven, so Treyarch is now the studio in charge of 2020’s Call of Duty. Sledgehammer and Raven were reportedly working on a Call of Duty set during the events of the Cold War but tensions between the two teams (combined with both Sledgehammer co-founders leaving the studio and several additional devs following suit) resulted in delays. Both Sledgehammer and Raven are reportedly reassigned as support studios for Treyarch, which is rumored to be working on Black Ops 5, and the game is now coming in 2020–a whole year early.

Activision hasn’t confirmed any of this, but recent announcements have at least lent greater credence to the idea that 2020’s Call of Duty will, in some capacity, break from the tradition the publisher has maintained these past eight years.

Activision believes that 2020’s Call of Duty won’t sell as well as 2019’s Modern Warfare–a fair assumption given that Modern Warfare has outsold every Call of Duty from this console generation–highlighting how Modern Warfare has done amazingly well. As Infinity Ward and Activision have already announced plans to continue supporting Modern Warfare (which can be seen with the start of Season 2 and a teaser for what looks like a new Call of Duty battle royale mode), it may be detrimental for Activision to do what it’s always done and jump to the next Call of Duty entry so soon.

So perhaps that’s where Treyarch comes in. Treyarch decided to forgo a traditional single-player campaign in 2018’s Black Ops 4 and instead included a battle royale mode called Blackout (which turned out to be popular). So perhaps Activision is tapping Treyarch to develop a new Call of Duty game that is focused around battle royale–one that can be bought as a standalone game but is still connected to Modern Warfare in some capacity.

Of course, because Activision hasn’t confirmed any of this, all of what we say here could end up being false conjecture. Activision may have just held out on announcing which developer is working on 2020’s Call of Duty because it just doesn’t want to say which one it is yet. Which is a boring explanation but still entirely possible.

If, however, the disruption to Activision’s Call of Duty schedule is true, it raises questions about the future of the franchise. Prior to 2012, Activision just went back and forth between Treyarch and Infinity Ward–would the publisher return to only two studios headlining new Call of Duty games? Could it maintain its annual release schedule if that were the case? Should it even try to maintain that schedule when both Modern Warfare and (the immensely successful) Call of Duty Mobile are great examples of how individual Call of Duty games can continue to excel via regular post-launch support and content updates?

Regardless of what happens, something at least seems to be up with 2020’s Call of Duty, because Activision is being oddly coy about who’s actually responsible for the game. Or maybe we’re just thinking too hard about all this.

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