Treyarch takes over COD 2020, accelerating Black Ops 5 a year early.
We are at a point in the year where every gaming news outlet and many gamers are eagerly awaiting for any Call of Duty 2019 news. All but confirmed, rumored to be Modern Warfare 4, the offical announcement and reveal could be any day now. Dispite still having no word on COD 2019, major Call of Duty 2020 news has leaked. Based on leaked info from a Kotaku investigative article, we now have word on an upset in the development on Call of Duty 2020. Ever since 2014, Activision has had their golden goose Call of Duty on a three year rotational cycle between their three studios. It's a great strategy to maintain a AAA annual franchise. These games are getting bigger, more expensive, and harder to make, and three years is a better development time to build them than two years. Infinity Ward is up and poised to make COD2019, so that means Sledgehammer Games was already working on COD 2020. There were paired up with Raven Software on COD 2020, and apparently Raven was taking the lead role. However, it has come out thanks to the Kotaku investigation that Raven and Sledgehammer have been having difficulties with each other and on this development. The current state of COD 2020 is quoted as a "mess". Apparently, the game just is not where it needs to be to launch in 2020. To reach 2020, and important year with next-gen consoles coming, Activision has handed leadership over to Treyarch who are now overseeing development of COD 2020, with Sledgehammer and Raven still helping. What makes this story even more interesting is that Treyarch isnt helping them finish whatever they were working on, Treyarch is shifting the games entire design and aestetic to make it into Black Ops 5 which wouldn't have been slated until 2021 when it was Treyarchs turn again.
While many gamers are excited for the news about another Black Ops game so soon, afterall it is their most popular sub-series of COD, this news causes me pause for the future of gaming's biggest and most successful franchise. First off this means that Treyarch, Sledgehammer, and Raven have less than a year and a half to build Black Ops 5, and we all know how well that worked out for Anthem... Can they really build a good AAA mega game in that short period of time? Moreso, even if they pull it off and make it awesome, will gamers want another Black Ops so soon? Honestly though, it is a double edge sword. I want Black Ops 5 to be great as a fan and as someone who doesn't want to see ill for Activision, but the better that Black Ops 5 ends up being, then the harder and maybe too hard the devs had to Crunch. The gaming industry has recently been under scrutiny with more and more developers from major companies speaking out about Crunch. Crunch is the term for excessive overtime and overworking to meet deadlines that many games developers experience poor working conditions. It is a growing concern with more publishers, news outlets, and gamers talking about. I want great games, but I don't want to see my favorite studios destroyed for my impatience and the impatience of publishers. Recently CD Project Red and Respawn have come out speaking out its efforts to reduce Crunch and improve employee work lifes. Respawn even asked gamers for patience on Apex becuase they didn't want to push their devs, and I can wait for more Apex content because I love that game. Crunch is becoming a topic gamers are familiar with and it can't stay hidden forever. With Activition's financial trouble can they risk burning out their teams on their most important franchise by shaving off a year of development? How do we know that crunch and work place stress wasn't the cause of Sledgehammer and Raven's issues in the first place? Less important than Crunch, but still importnat is the other concern I have is Activision has built their entire model around this three year rotation so what are they going to do for 2021? Infinity Ward needs to support COD 2019 for the next half a year and they JUST built something. Treyarch, Sledgehammer, and Raven are all busy trying to scrap together COD 2020 into something decent.
...So who's left for 2021? COD 2021 needs to start now but there aren't any teams left to build it, and production can't wait until everyone is done. Activision needs to increase quality, increase content, increase the value of their games in order to compete with the likes of Fortnite and Apex, and their strategy is circling in the wrong direction. Shaving development time and increasing Crunch for their devs is only going to result in worse, less finished, lesser-performing COD games. They are doubling down on the thing that is contribuiting to their problem. Activision has two better options. Take 2020 or 2021 off entirely; somehow adjust their financial expectations to let the franchise breathe. Ubisoft did this with Assassin's Creed. The devs needed it and Ubisoft gave them more time and Assassin's Creed Origins was amazing and worth the wait. With 2020 being the launch of next-gen consoles and Activisions financial difficulties, I doubt they would or even could afford to do this, but it is what the series could use. The second option is they need to add a fourth developer. They need a fourth talented fresh standalone team and switch COD to a 4 year cycle. This is their best option. Next gen is coming, the games are getting bigger and harder to make, they simply need to give their developers more time. Bring someone new in to make COD 2021, otherwise someone is going to have to crunch to the extreme to keep this franchise going. Without a fourth team, COD 2020 and 2021 could be a disaster. Call of Duty is a franchise I really like, it has been a standard of technical excellence and its something I look forward to every year. I really hope Activision gets smart on their long term strategy, and whatever they choose to do it isn't at the expense of hard working developers or at the expense of paying gamers.