Activision, the publishing giant behind the popular video game franchise ‘Call of Duty,’ recently announced that they will be adding Toys for Bob to the list of studios tasked with working on Call of Duty Warzone. Toys for Bob is the studio responsible for creating landmark science fiction games like Star Control and other games such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro, and it was only the most recent addition in the list of studios to be redirected towards Call of Duty.
It is a well-known fact that the Call of Duty franchise has been the major source of revenue for Activision Blizzard over the years. Consequently, whenever they delegate another studio to work on the game, it draws a significant amount of attention and especially at a time like now when every Activision studio appears to be working on Call of Duty.
It all started when Activision published the first Call of Duty game in 2003 which was set in the World War II era. The games were initially developed by the likes of Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games with the most recent title Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War being released in November of 2020 which was developed by Treyarch and Raven Software. The series has sold over 400 million copies worldwide as of April 2021 as per Guinness World Records and is one of the biggest first-person shooter game series in history.
The success of the series has been paramount for Activision. So it naturally made sense for them to allocate the resources at their disposal towards Call of Duty. As a result, they end up releasing a new Call of Duty game almost every year. Previously the publisher would be able to work on each release and give it the time needed by rotating between the 3 studios, Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer. But now the popular Warzone battle royal mode is demanding more work from the studios and hence came the need to delegate the extra work towards the studios working on the development of other games.
Apparently, Activision has developed the habit of putting all their eggs in one basket over the years due to the lack of other alternate and equally profitable video game series. Although Blizzard Entertainment has come out with commercially successful projects such as the Warcraft series, they are yet to meet the benchmark that the Call of Duty franchise has established. Every time Activision comes out with another Call of Duty game, it brings in millions for the stakeholders and thus, having every single studio under the wing of Activision Publishing working on Call of Duty does seem like the most optimal use of their resources.
Numbers also speak for Call of Duty. As per reports published by VentureBeat, a leading American tech news organisation, Activision grew around USD 1.8 billion in terms of capital through the release of Warzone last year. However, whenever Activision has another studio work on Call of Duty, concerns are raised regarding potentially massive layoffs from these respective studios.
Back in 2019, Activision laid off 800 members of staff, reported Forbes. While this move was heavily criticised by some, Activision later went on to clarify that these 800 people were non-developers and administrative staff. They soon decided to boost the number of developers working on franchises like Call of Duty, Warcraft, Overwatch and Candy Crush. With Electronic Arts and Tencent coming up with big hits like Apex Legends and Player Unknown’s Battleground during this time, Activision did not have a choice but to focus on the one game they knew they could count on.
Nevertheless, due to the prior controversies, when Activision announced that Toys for Bob would be working on Call of Duty, layoffs on a large scale and delay in the release of the games that the studio was working were anticipated. However, the publisher has cleared the air on the issue and announced that Toys for Bob will simultaneously be working on both Call of Duty as well as Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.
Activision Blizzard recently announced that the Call of Duty series has generated revenues worth approximately USD 27 billion since its initial release back in 2003. So while concerns may arise as to why Activision would have all of their studios working on a single franchise, the answer is quite obvious in this case. To put it simply, the formula just seems to work for them. And with over 100 million monthly players, Call of Duty currently stands as one of the biggest entertainment franchises in time.