Report: Call of Duty might not be annual once Xbox deal closes

Captain Price Modern Warfare
Captain Price Modern Warfare (Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft announced a deal recently to acquire Activision Blizzard for Xbox.
  • According to a report from Bloomberg, it's possible that sometime after the deal closes, Call of Duty will not be released annually anymore.
  • These reported discussions are not finalized.
  • Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer recently noted that he wants keep Call of Duty on PlayStation.

When Microsoft's deal to acquire Activision Blizzard for Xbox closes, the Call of Duty franchise might not be annual anymore. This comes via a report from Bloomberg, which notes that according to two people familiar with high-level discussions, there are talks to no longer put out a premium Call of Duty title every year.

This plan isn't finalized but comes as Call of Duty: Vanguard, the latest entry in the series, underperformed significantly, despite strong NPD results in December 2021.

Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer recently stated his interest in revitalizing older Activision games. Over the last few years, Activision has eschewed its teams working on a wide slate of games, compounding resources to keep Call of Duty as a yearly title.

Spencer also noted that he has a "desire" to see Call of Duty stay on PlayStation, and that any existing agreements will be upheld. Microsoft is upholding its contractual agreements inherited when it acquired ZeniMax Media, releasing timed console exclusives Deathloop and the upcoming Ghostwire: Tokyo on PS5.

Bloomberg's report also notes that there is some optimism among Activision Blizzard employees that the acquisition could be a positive change, drawing on how other studios have been carefully treated when acquired by Microsoft in recent years.

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.

20 Comments
  • Shutter Sledgehammer, as their games are consistently poor. Have the franchise release a game every 2 years, meaning Infinity Ward and Treyarch take turn releasing games on 4-year cycles.
  • Seriously, first thing Spencer said is he prefers activision studios working on dormant IP. (He called out HeXen, among a whole list.)
    Second, he wants COD on Gamepass and Gamepass economics are about the long tail.
    Third, just by looking at retail charts you'll see last year's COD outselling everything but *this year's* COD. Which means that all that that went into this ydar's COD was redundant; those could have gone into a different game and Gamepass benefits more from COD + another game than two CODs.
    Fourth, Gamepass has more than enough other shooters that it doesn't need COD every single year.
    Add it all up and going to say, every other year releases would reduce development costs by half and only reduce COD engagement (the true metric of a subscription service) fractionally, if at all. Finally, it makes more sense to deploy the experienced studios on multiple franchises and staff up newbies and temps to support whoever is on COD. Yes, COD *will* generate somewhat less revenue on a two or even three year cycle (with expansions and DLC) but Activision as a whole will generate more revenue for Gamepass by engaging more people tban just shooter fans. Anybody wanting to play Spencer mind reader needs to start by understanding Gamepass does not depend on launch window sales but on maximizing subscribers and minimizing churn. He's not playing by the old rules but rather he is inventing a whole new game where he makes the rules.
  • Makes more sense to push COD as a single entity, maybe IW doing Modern Warfare COD and Treyarch doing Zombies or WW2 COD. Then they can add new campaigns every other year or whatever. The games simply do not need to be replaced, they can just build on what's there. I feel like the days of yearly iterations should be put in the past (I'm looking at you spring games) and just release a game that gets built upon.
  • I think HALO Infinite is showing how these franchises will be moving forward: set a big flexible background with a launch campaign and then add regular expansions with new missions, new challenges, new gear. This is common for online games but Halo just added it to local single player. COD can maintain a common launcher and "backbone" with three or more separate lines of DLC for different eras and theaters, all for single player or coop, with Warfront being the MMO side of the franchise. Instead of a single massive release every year they can slot smaller packages from different studios rotating in every six months or so, say June and December. The game keeps growing but all the packages don't have to be installed at the same time, reducing bloat.
    More efficient way of using studio resources and allowing for other games to be produced.
    The switch won't be immediate, though.
    Best guess is COD2023 lasts two years and the new model doesn't start until 2026/27.
    It takes time to change course on a giant franchise.
  • Let's use Destiny 2 as an example of how a shooter can evolve and not Halo Infinite which literally just came out and we have absolutely no idea how well it's going to work yet because it's had absolutely no content added yet to its single player component.
  • But HALO is split into two products with different business models.
    (Destiny is just one.)
    Campaign is much like early Halos while online is free-to-play with microtransactions just as Fortnight et al. COD already has the eternal online version so the campaign side is what would require upfront purchase with some regularity. Call it what you will, splitting the product allows serving both sides of the market better than trying for a one size fits all solution. This is particularly important post deal because COD will be living side by side with Halo and Gears (plus Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein, and HeXen) so they don't *have* to be all things to everybody. All that would matter is for shooter fans to be playing one of the Gampass Seven. 😊
    Something for every taste.
  • I know Warzone is separate now but is the traditional multiplayer split off as well, I know during the Modern Warfare remake it was a part of the campaign purchase but I don't know what they've done with Vanguard.
  • With DLC and microtransctions they can squeeze enough out of campaign and with Warzone around eternally having a campaign mmo component is competing with themselves. Wouldn't it be better synergy if Warzone gets DLC that aligns with the new campaign? Cheaper, too. Again, Activision is wasting resources in squeezing every last penny out of COD instezd of considering those same resources might have a higher ROI from even a lesser AA game.
  • That is actually a really good idea re synergising Warzone content with campaign releases.
  • As an aside "spring" games was meant to be "sports" games.
  • Autocorruption system caught you, huh?
    You'rd not alone.
  • You know what's be cool? And probably a pipe dream? Game pass coming to playstation... Buy a title on Xbox and literally play anywhere on any console. No different than MS making office for the Mac OS. But that way if you own both consoles you could play however you want, but without giving up Xbox exclusives to ps like halo, gears, Forza, etc
  • While that would be cool it would be absolutely terrible for Sony, especially given they have a digital only PS5. Unless they actually got a cut from every Game Pass subscription on the PlayStation which there is no way Microsoft would go for.
  • That's exactly what they would go for. Just like they did a deal with Gamestop to do the same to push Game Pass there. Who knows, EA might get the same for their service. It only makes sense to me. Even if you give them 30% of that (it probably wouldn't be that high), that's still 70% of revenue you may never have had in the first place. Not to mention that would be on that device only, if you wanted the full experience you could upgrade to the full amount and that upcharge would be even more money. They might even enjoy using the ecosystem so much they buy a Series S or streaming stick.
  • They could. Limit is to MS games and pay Sony the usual 30% tax. But it wouldn't produce as much income as their blockbuster model.
    Especially when Gamepass matures and starts dropping new MS games monthly along with the eternal back catalog.
    Plus it won't be necessary once Gamepass hits smart TVs.
    As long as the broadband is good enough the console won't be necessary.
    That is the endgame for Gamepass, 3-4 years down the road. BTW, there's already at least one ISP in the UK bundling Gamepass with their best service. A similar deal with Starlink would be truly disruptive. And MS has already partnered with SpaceX for Azure. That's why Sony doing a cloud subscription is inevitable.
    Join them or be bypassed.
  • If Sony did that, it likely would be to only stream the games on Game Pass. No downloading onto the PlayStation. Sony has their own Game Pass type service they're about to promote hard soon.
  • I think that this would be for the best. Coming out every year has hurt the quality of the game. COD can have a much longer life cycle. Alternate it with the other two shooters that are on the roster, for example, Infinite came out in 2021, the next COD could come out in 2023, Gears 6 could come out in 2024, and then they would rotate every year, giving each developer time to put out their best game and players time to exhaust their enjoyment of each franchise.
  • Let's see if Microsoft will give COD mobile the benefit of using two screens, similar to Asphalt.
  • At this point I don't really need a new cod every year. I didn't even purchase the latest one. I'm still playing cold War multi-player and modern warfare too. Once your done with the missions it's basically the same stuff.
  • That would be a sneaky way to bypass Sony's existing exclusive marketing deal and DLC priority window for Call of Duty. Otherwise I think this is a good idea to restore some zest to Call of Duty, maybe even prompt a bit more anticipation and quality overall to the series.