Activision Blames World War II for Subpar Call of Duty Sales
With Activision Blizzard’s last Call of Duty title, Call of Duty Vanguard failing to meet the consumer’s already abysmal expectations for the franchise, the publisher is blaming the lowdown on the game’s World War II setting and its lack of “innovation.”
With the most recent earnings missed forecasts by some $300 million, the company blamed the poor results on the lukewarm reception of 2021’s Call of Duty: Vanguard. The game’s campaign was a bizarre mess of following a multicultural task force tasked with thwarting Nazi(except the game makes a very clear effort to not label them as Nazis) plots.
“While Call of Duty remains one of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time, our 2021 premium release didn’t meet our expectations, we believe primarily due to our execution,” Activision Blizzard wrote in an annual report to investors on April 30th. “The game’s World War II setting didn’t resonate with some of our community and we didn’t deliver as much innovation in the premium game as we would have liked.”
With a glance at the game’s launch, it was very apparent that there were a lot of shortcuts taken to ship it out on schedule. There were so many shortcuts that some of the content in the game was unfinished or completely dysfunctional. The game’s campaign was extremely brief, and as previously mentioned, a bizarre mess of characters from various backgrounds(which is the only “notable” part about the cast beyond their flat personalities). The zombies mode, a staple to Activision Call of Duty titles, turned out to be an unpolished mess of objectives to do in small skirmishes while zombies attempt to catch the player(but they haven’t a chance in hell to down the player because the player’s movement speed far exceeds the pursuers’), making the core threat of the game mode, merely an inconvenience at best. The multiplayer is just a reskin of the 2019 Modern Warfare’s formula, which is good in its context, but having Modern Warfare’s gunplay in a World War II setting just feels completely off, with players applying weapon techniques that hadn’t even existed before the 90s(IE: Tactical reloads, and emergency reloads).
Regarding the game in general, it's just Modern Warfare(2019) with a World War II paint job, except that paint bucket had gone off years ago and was robbed from a rotting corpse in their sunken WWII battleship, because if you put Modern Warfare(2019)’s gameplay side by side with Vanguard’s, they’d look identical, with the only difference being the firearms used. There is no innovation to the formula, much less an attempt at adapting the game to even remotely adhere to the World War II theme. The setting is further spat on with Vanguard’s Gunsmithing mechanic, a mechanic that allows players to customize their weapons with different parts and configurations. This system was inherited from Modern Warfare(2019) and was an innovative addition to the game, and it also made sense, as, given the modern setting, firearms could reasonably be rearranged or given different furniture to give these weapons an unconventional aesthetic. This system does not work for Vanguard, however, as it only results in the bastardization of historical firearms that could not be modified to function differently entirely. Imagine the classic M1 Garand, with its eight-round internal magazine that ejects a clip from the top when it expends those eight rounds; Now imagine the same firearm, except it now accepts a rotary drum magazine that’s just slammed into the rifle from the underside, the thought probably just destroys whatever perception you have of World War II firearms doesn’t it? Also, put a suppressor on the rifle for good measure, because those definitely existed during that time period.
While the game did become a top-seller, it was far below Activision and their shareholder’s expectations. It certainly didn’t help that Sledgehammer Games, the developer, had been working under suboptimal conditions due to the pandemic, which only further emphasizes the issue with the franchises’ brutal annualized production schedule. On top of the allegations of Activision Blizzard’s sexual harassment and discrimination of its workers, Call of Duty as a franchise has a very bleak and potentially conclusive future, for better or worse.