Is Call of Duty Dying?
Since 2003, Activision has been working hard to establish Call of Duty as the number one FPS franchise of all time. With a series that spans thirty-six releases, Call of Duty is easily one of the most iconic and widely-enjoyed titles in modern gaming. However, the franchise has lost a little something in recent years, and sour opinions mixed with a dwindling player count have left people asking, ‘is Call of Duty dying?’
From esports tournaments to the opinions of players, and from the evolution of the games to the financial side of things, we’re going to break that question down. Once and for all, we’re going to find out if Call of Duty is dying. There’s no doubt that things are looking up as we move ever closer to Modern Warfare 2’s impending launch, but will it be enough to save the entire platform from collapsing?
Let’s find out.
As Time Goes On
It can be argued that Call of Duty’s heyday spanned from 2009 to around 2013, reaching from Modern Warfare 2 to Ghosts. This was, according to opinions and statistics, the most popular and exciting period for Call of Duty, and the franchise saw massive growth. While the esports side of Call of Duty has continued to grow as time has gone on, the multiplayer experience and overall feel of Call of Duty were much more enjoyable a decade ago.
From this period, some of the most popular Call of Duty titles of all time emerged:
- Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010, 31m sold)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011, 31m sold)
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012, 30m sold)
- Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013, 29m sold)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009, 26m sold)
These old titles still hold up today. For instance, in March of 2022, a special MW3 esports tournament was held, and according to escharts.com, it pulled in a peak viewership of 439,000 users. This puts it in second place overall for the record of the most concurrent viewers for a Call of Duty tournament in esports industry history. So, is Call of Duty dying? If we compare what exists today to that ‘heyday’, it could be.
While 2019’s Modern Warfare was something of a boon for the franchise, revitalising both the multiplayer scene and the esports community, it died off fast. There’s no doubt that Warzone was a monumental introduction in 2020, but the poor performances of both Cold War and Vanguard sapped the franchise’s energy. Now, fans are looking forward to Modern Warfare 2 in 2022, and there’s a great potential for this release to become the most popular Call of Duty title to ever exist.
Activision’s Active Vision
For years, Activision (and Call of Duty’s various developers) have been wrestling with the community at large, trying desperately to keep the players happy. In the wider debate as to whether or not Call of Duty is dying, we can simply look to the numbers that echo the opinions of the players themselves. In Q1 of 2022, it was revealed that Activision had witnessed a grand slump through 2021, losing millions of active monthly users on titles like Call of Duty: Warzone.
Within just one year, Call of Duty’s platform had bled out, losing more than 60 million players.
It’s thought that the commercial failure that was Vanguard and the extremely underwhelming performance of Warzone led to this drop in players. When Caldera was introduced to Warzone, it brought with it a slew of issues, bugs, and exploits, and players simply weren’t happy. Many abandoned the battle royale platform and moved to other titles, like Apex Legends, and that included some of the best Call of Duty players the world has come to know.
Here are some of the opinions of fans, taken from recent Reddit posts:
Activision’s decisions to focus on battle pass content and aesthetic bundles are always met with a mixed reception. For many, they’re the plague of the community, but for others, the bright, inventive skins and bundles are a welcome introduction.
For many fans, Call of Duty Vanguard marked a point to step back from the franchise.
By now, Call of Duty has established such a strong reputation that it remains at the top of the charts regardless of how good the actual game is.
Is Call of Duty dying? Not according to CongenitalSlurpees, but it’s only thanks to its sales figures that it isn’t.
Is It Time To Call It Quits?
According to a study by GamesIndustry, Call of Duty may simply be suffering from the universal exhaustion of the franchise.
On streaming platforms like Twitch, Call of Duty has seen a massive decline in viewership. While the esports tournaments bring in the big numbers, viewer counts on titles like Warzone, Vanguard, and Cold War have essentially crashed in recent months. As fewer streamers are putting out content and fewer viewers are watching that content, Call of Duty in general has less exposure, while competing titles grow consistently over time.
According to TwitchTracker.com, Warzone’s performance on Twitch has been declining since April of 2021, with claims that Caldera killed Warzone:
For almost two decades, the Call of Duty formula has remained relatively static. There’s a single-player story to explore, a multiplayer mode, potentially a Zombies feature, and now, battle royale. When Modern Warfare 2 launches, there are expectations that it will include a PvPvE mode, akin to Escape From Tarkov, but that’s completely unconfirmed at present.
If we’re asking, ‘is Call of Duty dying’, we can certainly see evidence that it might be. However, the future is almost impossible to predict, and a game-changing title like Modern Warfare 2 could fully revitalise the entire franchise. Should this title prove to be a hit with the fans, it could (and likely will) bring tens of millions of players back to the platform. Furthermore, the introduction of Warzone 2.0 in 2022 and beyond will likely offer an injection of excitement to the battle royale community.
And finally, we must point out that in 2023, there will be no new Call of Duty title. This marks the first time in well over a decade that the annual release schedule for Call of Duty has been amended. That alone might be enough to interest older fans of the franchise. There are also hopes that Modern Warfare 2 will boost up the esports scene, bringing in a fresh host of Call of Duty betting opportunities.
Is Call of Duty dying? There are signs that it might have been, and it’s certainly in a lull right now, but it will definitely come back up in 2022.