It was bound to give eventually.
Activision’s seemingly annual trip to the bank, Call of Duty, is getting a little help on its quest to remain the most relevant shooter on a yearly basis. Sledgehammer Games will be releasing their first title in the Call of Duty franchise as lead development studio beginning with this fall’s as-yet-not-announced title to be launched most likely in October or November of 2014.
No stranger to working on a Call of Duty game, Sledgehammer Games had previously co-developed CoD: Modern Warfare 3 alongside Infinity Ward. In fact, Activision has constantly farmed out its in-house studios to assist in Call of Duty development, including the veteran teams at Raven Software and Neversoft. Although Sledgehammer Games has no marquee titles to their credit, the studio’s founders Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey are industry veterans formerly of Electronic Arts’ Visceral Studios where they led development on the first Dead Space.
By adding a third development studio in Sledgehammer Games to the rotating former duo of Infinity Ward and Treyarch, Activision has increased the production time for Call of Duty titles from two years to three years. Sledgehammer’s upcoming fall release will be the first title made under the three year production cycle.
With the increased time to polish a product and a steady hand at Sledgehammer, I have surprisingly raised expectations for the next Call of Duty. Hopefully they will be able to tap into Schofield and Condrey’s experience with Dead Space in making tone and mood much more prominent in whatever Call of Duty comes to pass. Maybe even recall how much fun those Lord of the Rings and 007 games were back when Visceral was still EA Redwood.
Judging by the tepid response to Call of Duty: Ghosts, the teams at Treyarch and Infinity Ward have to be a bit burned out by now. Infinity Ward clearly has had it rough since the departure of Jason West and Vance Zampella. Modern Warfare 3 was good but not stellar and Ghosts was a regression in the series. Activision is fortunate that the Call of Duty formula is fairly bulletproof and that former second-string developer Treyarch has blossomed into the franchise’s star. Having Sledgehammer take some of the pressure off those two studios will be a good move in the long run, especially if they keep wringing the series for money.