The video game industry runs on innovation. But sometimes, one way of introducing something new is to go back to an old formula.
The next installment of the popular shooter franchise Call of Duty will return to its roots: World War II. With pop culture welcoming the return of World War II-themed entertainment, the move is the "the right game at the right time" according to Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg.
'Time To Go Back To Roots'
In an exclusive interview with Polygon, Hirshberg shared his thoughts about the franchise and its direction moving forward. Activision publishes the Call of Duty series.
In 2014, the management decided that it was time to take the series back to where it originally took off: the World War II period. Around that time, the franchise was set in the near future and this proved to be a success, as Advanced Warfare was making a killing with commercial and critical acclaim.
Coincidentally around the same time, rival Electronic Arts was also backtracking on its Battlefield franchise's setting, which culminated in the successful 2016 World War I-themed Battlefield 1.
When asked if Activision was already sensing this future trend, Hirshberg diffused the question. He said that in 2014 when the company decided "it was time to go back to our roots," it could not have known that the year it intended to launch (2017) would coincide with the prevalance of World War II movies. Likewise, the company did not expect its competitors to be doing the same back-to-historical-settings move.
The Call of Duty franchise is developed in a three-year cycle alternately by three studios: Treyarch, Infinity Ward, and Sledgehammer. Each studio is responsible for a sub-franchise (i.e., Black Ops, Ghosts, Modern Warfare). It is Sledgehammer's turn to take over the reins of the franchise's World War II reboot. Sledgehammer is the studio behind the 2014 Advanced Warfare.
When asked if the idea for the throwback came from Sledgehammer, Hirshberg said that the idea just came to life on its own, as it was more of a "discussion and not a pitch."
'Right Game At The Right Time'
The franchise's last title Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was released in 2016 and it sent the franchise literally to space and out of the gamers' touch. Of course, in 2014 when Activision was greenlighting the WWII project, it couldn't have known that Infinite Warfare would garner negative reception. Thus, the boots-on-the-ground Call of Duty: WWII could not have come at a better time.
"I think it's a really good game," said Hirshberg about Infinite Warfare. Although the game delivered the company's expectations, it might have been "the wrong game at the wrong moment" as it did not jive with the pulse of the audience at the time of its release.
Hirshberg emphasized the importance of finding the right balance between something fresh and something that will resonate with the audience of the time.
"[W]hen 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," he said.