[Update: An Activision spokesperson has provided the following response to Destructoid on the Call of Duty 2023 situation:
“We have an exciting slate of premium and free-to-play Call of Duty experiences for this year, next year and beyond. Reports of anything otherwise are incorrect. We look forward to sharing more details when the time is right.”]
According to reports from news outlets, 2023 will not see a Call of Duty release, marking the first time in almost two decades that Activision’s billion-dollar franchise has skipped a year for its annual release.
As reported by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, publisher Activision has decided to take a break from Call of Duty’s annual release schedule. The decision is allegedly partially influenced by the under-expectation sales of 2021 entry Call of Duty Vanguard which, while still one of the best selling games of 2021, saw a continued downward trend of year-on-year sales for the military shooter franchise.
Call of Duty has, arguably, not been the same ever since the launch of its very successful battle royale title Call of Duty Warzone. As I said in my review for 2020’s Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War, the success of Warzone goes some way toward dividing the audience — why dedicate hours upon hours to a yearly title’s multiplayer modes if Warzone is your personal shooter of choice year after year? Perhaps this division has come to pass, and with a rumored Warzone overhaul on the horizon, Activision is probably content with putting all of its grenades into that particular basket — at least for the time being.
Having a year pass by without a new Call of Duty release will have a legitimate impact on the entire gaming industry. Not only will this put an extra $60-80 spending money in the wallets of many a mainstream video game fan, but it will also open up the lucrative holiday gaming schedules for a slew of other releases — many of which often choose to dodge launching their wares in the same time frame as Activision’s juggernaut. It also frees up a helluva lot of budget and people-power for Activision’s slew of studios, (assuming everyone isn’t immediately poured straight into the Warzone factory.)
As for the Call of Duty brand itself, this is not a sign that the series is “dying”, despite what the franchise’s naysayers may be touting. No, there simply is no longer a need for both Call of Duty Warzone and Call of Duty‘s annual mainline releases. There is still a market for the latter — I personally prefer the yearly titles’ campaign, zombies, and multiplayer modes to anything offered by Warzone — but Activision is clearly going to make efforts to redesign the strategy behind what is, when all is said and done, the most lucrative, financially successful, and most enduring video game franchise of all time.