With Call of Duty going back to World War 2 with this year’s Call of Duty: WW2, many gamers are excited to revisit the war that made the franchise a hit. With so much hype already building for Call of Duty: WW2, Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg revealed why the series is heading back to the iconic war.
Hirshberg opened up to Polygon, explaining how the team at Activision made the decision to take Call of Duty back to World War 2 alongside developer Sledgehammer Games three years ago. At the time, there wasn’t nearly as much demand for the franchise to “return to its roots” as there is today, but the timing worked out well with gamer desires. Hirshberg explained:
"I don't know why that happens like that but it always seems to happen like that. We're all plugged into the same cultural rhythms to a certain extent. Specifically to us, three years ago when we greenlit this thing, we definitely just thought it was time to take the franchise back to its roots."
It’s interesting that Hirshberg and his team made the decision to take Call of Duty back to a previous war, just as Electronic Arts was deciding to publish Battlefield 1, which took gamers back to World War 1. The timing is compelling enough that Hirshberg commented on the growing interest in historical wars and Call of Duty’s place in current culture:
"I certainly can't comment on any influences that might have an impact on our competitors, I can speak for us and you know I totally acknowledge that these things do seem to happen in waves like this. I mean three years ago when we dreamed up this game and decided it was time to go back to our roots, we could not have known at that time that the year we would launch it would be a year in which there would be several World War II movies in the theaters and that there would be other competitors going back to historical settings."
The return to World War 2 with Call of Duty: WW2 is a welcome change for many gamers, especially after Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Based on the low level of sales compared to previous years, it’s obvious gamers were ready for a change after the release of Infinite Warfare. Fortunately for Activision, the announcement of Call of Duty: WW2 couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s a chance to revitalize the franchise by returning to its roots and revitalizing a series that’s been struggling for some time.
With a three-year development cycle and a trio of developers, Activision surely has its work cut out for it when it comes to predicting gamer desires and expectations for the shooter franchise. While Hirshberg defended the decision to release Infinite Warfare in the interview, many gamers are disappointed the World War 2 entry didn’t come out a year earlier.
It’ll be interesting to see how Call of Duty performs in coming years. The shooter series has been the best selling title for the last few years, despite declining sales. If Activision wants to maintain that position in the future, it’ll need to continue to see three years into the future with the gaming crystal ball it seems Hirshberg and his team have. For Hirshberg, it’s all about finding the right balance with what gamers want and what the developers are excited to create. Hirshberg said:
"There’s no other franchise in any medium that I can think of that’s got an annual release, first of all, also that stayed on top of the charts for this many years in a row. The most important thing is to find a way to strike ... the right balance. If the game’s not familiar enough, then it doesn’t deliver on the things that people love about the franchise. And if it’s not fresh enough, they can get bored. And we’ve dealt with both ends of that continuum.
"But when you get that balance right, I think that’s when you get the best games and the best fan response and the best results overall. I think this is one of those years where it feels like the right game at the right time being made by the right team."
If Call of Duty can finally break the spell and experience higher sales this year than last, it could finally mean Activision and its developers have found that balance and are on the right track.
Call of Duty: WW2 is reportedly set to release November 3, 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.