Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was one of the biggest selling games of 2016. The title made gobs of money, but at the same time it also sold 50% less than Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. Activision pays very close attention to the numbers and they've promised something new for this year's outing.
Shacknews is reporting that during a conference call Activision revealed that they're taking the series "back to its roots" and that...
"Traditional combat will once again take center stage"
This is in direct response to some criticisms (read "some") that felt as if Call of Duty had veered too far away from its roots. What does this mean exactly for the game itself? No one knows. Shacknews points out that the Activision executives didn't say.
However, let me clear out the air of confusion surrounding this topic so we're all on the same page: What Activision is saying here is for shareholder purposes. Their words have no immediate bearing on the current direction of this year's Call of Duty outing from Sledgehammer Games.
Let me further break this down for you: Activision switched the development of Call of Duty games to a three year cycle following the poor reception of Call of Duty: Ghosts. It was tough to get in a full four hour campaign and a robust multiplayer mode for anywhere between four to six platforms within the span of just a year and a half worth of development time. After switching up the cycle the quality of the games improved greatly. Sales were up; reviews were positive; things were going well.
So what does the three year cycle have to do with "traditional combat" making a return? Well, it means that Sledgehammer Games has already been working on this project since their last outing back in 2014, which was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
To break this down even further, what this means is that whatever Sledgehammer is working on is already into its third year of development. There's no turning back. Activision responding to the shareholders as if there has been some change to the design formula in response to Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare's relatively poor performance (given that it sold well but nowhere near as well as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3) is purely disingenuous.
At this stage in development it's too late to go back and rewrite the story, or overhaul the gameplay. Regardless of what Activision tells shareholders, they're already three years deep into whatever Sledgehammer has to offer.
We don't know what Sledgehammer Games' new take on Call of Duty will be, but hopefully it's not another future or sci-fi warfare entry since it's been a fairly worn out theme lately in the Call of Duty franchise. It's a little scary, because according to EA the top publishers have been pushing heavily for future warfare and sci-fi titles over the last few years and that's why it took a lot of convincing from DICE for them to greenlight Battlefield 1. So, hopefully, Sledgehammer was given leeway way back in 2014 to start exploring some new territory for their upcoming title. How this will tie into "traditional combat" making a return is tough to tell, but we'll likely find out when Activision finally reveals this year's Call of Duty outing.