Activision Wants All Its Franchises to Be Like Call of Duty
Shocking no one, Call of Duty continues to do very, very well for Activision-Blizzard — especially now with Warzone. And in response to that success, Activision is poised to take the formula that’s bringing in big bucks from each new Call of Duty game and fitting all of its other major franchises into that same mold.
Today, the company reported its earnings for the first quarter of the year, with a record first-quarter revenue of $2.28 billion — a whopping $2 billion of which was digital. Activision-Blizzard has a lot of segments contributing to that revenue, including Blizzard and its King mobile games, but its reporting today was clearly most proud of how well Call of Duty was doing.
Activision cited that of all the 435 million monthly active users [MAU] across all of its properties, 150 million of those MAUs were from Call of Duty alone. In fact, free-to-play Call of Duty and Call of Duty mobile have nearly tripled total MAUs across all Call of Duty games since their launches last year, and the recent launch of Call of Duty Mobile in China brought in “tens of millions” of new players, further helping things along.
We got even more numbers during the earnings call, with Activision sharing that player spending on Call of Duty Mobile in China alone in its first quarter was on par with the rest of the world combined, and that Call of Duty Mobile has now surpassed 500 million downloads and over $1 billion in lifetime revenue since its 2019 launch. In summary? Call of Duty is still enormous, growing even more with each new release and update, and Activision’s current favorite child.
Which means that it wishes all of its other children would grow up to be just like Call of Duty, and that’s exactly what Activision is trying to make happen. During its same earnings call, Activision honed in on the “multiple entry points” for the Call of Duty franchise across premium, free-to-play, and mobile, citing this as a recipe for success it intends to implement into its other major properties.
“Call of Duty is the template we’re applying to our proven franchises as well as our new potential franchises as we attempt to grow our audiences to a billion players,” CEO Bobby Kotick said.
Kotick later in the call said that Activision-Blizzard would be ramping up its operations over the next year, planning to hire over 2000 developers, effectively tripling the size of “certain franchise teams” compared to their sizes in 2019. This expansion also includes new studios and expansions to existing studios, with Kotick citing Poland, China, Australia, and China as regions the company was looking at for growth.
It’s not quite clear yet what Kotick means about using Call of Duty as a “template,” even as the publisher likely ramps up development efforts on the franchises it wants to expand in that vein. One more obvious guess is the focus on multiple entry points, especially as the company recently said it had “multiple” free-to-play Warcraft mobile games in development and is clearly taking a similar mobile tactic with Diablo. What’s a bit more clear is who is getting left out of this new plan, as last week it came to light that Crash Bandicoot 4 developer Toys for Bob is pivoting from Crash development to Call of Duty support. While Activision has denied any explicit layoffs, a number of former employees have voluntarily departed the studio recently, and several contractors did not have their contracts renewed.
This all comes as Activision and Sledgehammer gear up for the next Call of Duty premium release this fall, which Activision says is “on track” and being developed for next-gen consoles. But given the interconnectivity of Call of Duty Mobile, Warzone, premium games like Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War, and possible integrations with Sledgehammer’s new game, it’s clear that whatever happens to Activision’s other properties, making a Call of Duty universe of sorts is quickly becoming even more of a top priority than it already was.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.