Call of Duty games come out annually, but they rotate based on years-long development cycles between a few houses. Sledgehammer is releasing Call of Duty: WWII this year, Infinity Ward put out Infinite Warfare last year. Treyarch dropped Black Ops III the year before that. So it’s Treyarch’s turn again, and signs have emerged suggesting that the series is headed back from the future and the past, back to, well, Modern Warfare. Based on the way things have gone for the series, if it’s true, then perhaps it’s what Activision needs.
The clue comes in the form of a job listing for the studio. Activision is looking for a “Systems Designer (Combat)” to work for Treyarch. This job comprises tons of the requirements you might expect, including tons of experience in multiplayer and combat-based games. But the interesting part is at the bottom, in the "Nice to Haves" section. The section suggests the applicant will have an advantage if they have a “deep knowledge base of firearms and modern military technology.” Does this mean a new Modern Warfare? The section also lists “Prestige 1 or above in Black Ops 3 Multiplayer,” for what it’s worth. The Black Ops series is historically all over the place in terms of timeline.
Here’s the thing: Treyarch has generally been the Black Ops dev, while Infinity Ward did Modern Warfare and Sledgehammer has been ping-ponging around different ideas. That said, Modern Warfare 3 was in development during all the drama that took place at Infinity Ward, meaning both Sledgehammer and Raven Software both contributed to development of the game. Raven also handled development on Modern Warfare Remastered. It’s debatable where the ownership on Modern Warfare would be at this moment. This also could very well be a new Black Ops, although that seems debatable since Black Ops III is still relatively active (and recently received some DLC).
It’s important to remember that big game developers are not fast-moving machines. AAA games are overbloated behemoths that take years to move and take shape, even for annual franchises. These games are often two or three years into development by the time they’re announced or released. Sledgehammer has noted multiple times, for example, that Call of Duty: WWII has been in the works for roughly three years. I say this, because while sometimes decisions come off as reactions to recent happenings, like WWII being a reaction to Infinite Warfare selling lower than expected, but really that game was in the works well before that happened.
If Modern Warfare is coming back in some fashion as a brand, it’s likely not a panicked reaction to the sales of Infinite Warfare or the lukewarm reception to the WWII Private Beta. Whatever it is, it’s been in the oven for a while at this point. And, frankly, it could be a good idea. Call of Duty’s reputation is all over the place, but the Modern Warfare brand still has that iconic value. Those games are regarded as classics, no matter what came before or comes after them. While a complete set of remasters for the trilogy feels like a more appropriate course, perhaps that will also happen, and keep Infinity Ward busy while it figures out a new approach for its wing.
Regardless of what happens, it’s clear that Activision has made an umbrella of a decision to walk Call of Duty back from exploring futuristic warfare. Even if this really is a sign of Black Ops IV coming, that could mean the modern equipment thing could be applying to a more present day-focused Black Ops experience. A return to the Modern Warfare brand, even with a soft reboot or something similar, could be seen as a safe choice to make. It could also be seen as somewhat cowardly, or pandering. Fanbases are finicky like that. I’m interested in seeing where it goes, especially since some of the talent behind the originals has since moved on.