Sledgehammer Games, the studio that co-developed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 with Infinity Ward, will solely develop the next Call of Duty installment, Activision announced during an earnings call today.
The announcement comes alongside news that Call of Duty games will enter a three-year development cycle, with Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch, and Infinity Ward rotating development duties each year. By this logic, Treyarch's next Call of Duty game (following Black Ops II) should arrive in 2015, while Infinity Ward's follow-up to Call of Duty: Ghosts will drop in 2016.
Of course, it isn't clear whether Call of Duty spin-offs will be handled by their traditional teams, or even if sub-series like Black Ops will continue. All three companies could have fresh takes on the series in the works, while Sledgehammer Games could be developing a direct sequel to Ghosts.
As Activision Publishing president and CEO Eric Hirshberg explained, the decision was made "to give our designers more time to envision and innovate for each title. It will give our content creators more focus on DLC and micro-DLC which . . . have become large and high-margin opportunities and significant engagement drivers. It will give our teams more time to polish, helping to ensure that we deliver the best possible experience to our fans each and every time."
With an eye to quality and innovation, an extra year of development time seems like the right move. Modern Warfare 3 was Sledgehammer Games' first published title, as the young team (formed in 2009 by veterans from the Dead Space series) was pulled from development on a Call of Duty third-person shooter to assist the remaining Infinity Ward team after co-founders Vince Zampella and Jason West departed with a host of followers.
Is this idea good or bad? That's currently the question at hand. Will another development house and a three year cycle help the series regain it's footing? Or are yearly releases going to continue to hurt the franchise? Only time will tell.