Activision plans to delay a new ‘Call of Duty’ release for the first time in nearly two decades

Activision is delaying the release of a new version of Call of Duty planned for next year,  Bloomberg reported yesterday (Feb. 22). The company typically releases a new version of the popular gaming franchise each year; this would be the first time since 2005 Activision hasn’t done so.

Activision shares declined as much as 1.4% on news of the delay, which could slash revenue from one of the company’s most lucrative franchises, and comes as Microsoft prepares to take over the video game maker in a $69 billion deal. The Microsoft deal reportedly had nothing to do with the decision, which instead stemmed from concerns about certain Call of Duty games outperforming others.

Activision has sold more than 400 million Call of Duty games since its initial release in 2003, but the punishing schedule required to roll out a new version each year has reportedly taken a toll on employees.

An Activision spokesman told Bloomberg the company has “an exciting slate of premium and free-to-play Call of Duty experiences” planned for this year, but declined to say anything about the version scheduled to be released in 2023.

Call of Duty consistently outperforms other games

The gaming franchise was one of Activision’s first major commercial successes, and has generated at least $27 billion in sales to date. It remains one of Activision’s top three franchises, accounting for 76% of the company’s net revenue in 2020 along with Candy Crush and World of Warcraft.

The pace at which Activision churns out new Call of Duty games has helped make it one of the most profitable franchises in the US. The most recent Call of Duty version, Vanguard, had lower year-over-year sales than 2020’s Black Ops, but was still the best-selling video game in the US last year, according to analytics firm NPD.

Activision may scale back Call of Duty schedule

Activision workers who spoke with Polygon last August said they worked nearly every day during the period when the company was preparing to release Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War in 2020, getting just one day off every three weeks to a month. “That was their gift to you during crunch,” the employee said.

Bloomberg reported last month that high-level employees at Activision were considering slowing down the Call of Duty schedule to help boost franchise sales. While this plan could change once Microsoft takes over, a revised schedule may be a bright spot for Activision employees working on Call of Duty.

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