Feb 23, 2022 - Technology

Call of Duty's rumored 2023 skip has impacts beyond Activision

Video game screenshot of soldiers on a tank in the desert

2005's Call of Duty 2, the game that established the series' annual release cycle. Screenshot: Activision

Activision will not release a mainline, premium Call of Duty game in 2023, the series' first interruption of its annual release cadence since 2005, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: A skip in the hit franchise wouldn't just cost Activision Blizzard some short-term revenue but would be felt deeply by video game retailers.

  • But it would also likely result in a better Call of Duty in 2024.
  • Activision has announced a new premium Call of Duty for 2022 as well as a new version of its free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone for an unspecified date.

What they're saying: Activision didn't exactly deny Bloomberg's report.

  • “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," a rep told Axios before going silent when asked to address things more clearly.

Between the lines: The delay is a reaction to the underperformance of last November's Call of Duty: Vanguard, Bloomberg reports.

  • The slump is relative, as Vanguard was still the top-selling game in the U.S. in 2021, continuing the series' 13-year chart-topping streak, according to sales tracker NPD.
  • "For retail in particular, losing a new premium Call of Duty release would be quite a challenge," NPD analyst Mat Piscatella told Axios, noting that the lack of big CoD could also impact sales of headsets and other accessories.
  • "While other Call of Duty products such as remasters, repackaged games from the catalog, or even packaged versions of digital content for Call of Duty: Warzone could help fill the void, it would be extremely difficult to replace a new mainline Call of Duty release, particularly in the holiday window."

Yes, but: Annual Call of Duty releases have become too much for developers and some fans.

  • Activision's studios work around the clock to turn the games out, while fans struggle to keep up.
  • "Our social media tracker regularly picks up discontent when a new title launches, as some gamers would like to keep playing the older one," Jefferies analyst Andrew Uerkwitz noted to investors.

What's next: Activision could still have a big 2023.

  • The company had expected a massive $2.5 billion revenue jump for 2023 according to estimates prepared in November, downgraded to $2 billion in January after Vanguard struggled.
  • That indicates confidence Overwatch 2, Diablo IV and maybe some other big titles are slated for release that year.

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