Activision Blames Disappointing Call Of Duty Sales On World War II

Activision Blames Disappointing Call Of Duty Sales On World War II
Image: Activision

The Call of Duty machine stalled last year, in response to which publisher Activision Blizzard is blaming the slowdown on the latest game’s World War II setting and lack of “innovation.” Sure.

After its most recent earnings missed forecasts by some $US300 ($416) million, the company blamed the poor results on the lukewarm reception of 2021’s Call of Duty: Vanguard. The game’s campaign was something of a time-hopping, globetrotting mess, following a special operations task force as it tries to thwart secret Nazi plots near the end of the war.

“While Call of Duty remains one of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time, our 2021 premium release didn’t meet our expectations, we believe primarily due to our own execution,” Activision Blizzard wrote in an annual report to investors on April 30. “The game’s World War II setting didn’t resonate with some of our community and we didn’t deliver as much innovation in the premium game as we would have liked.”

Activision doesn’t mention that the game’s campaign was extremely brief and cloyingly written, that its Zombies mode was widely panned, or that its seasonal content was quickly delayed. There’s no mention of the toll taken on development at Sledgehammer Games by the ongoing pandemic either, even as the company plowed ahead with its brutal annualized production schedule.

Perhaps most notable, the embattled publisher makes no mention of the fact that its marketing plans for the game were upended when allegations of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination at the company broke last July. Vanguard wasn’t officially revealed until August, months after the franchise’s normal annual debut, and the response was more muted than usual, no doubt in part because many were unsure how to respond to a glitzy promotional campaign by a company recently accused of years of worker mistreatment.

Then, less than two weeks after the game finally came out, The Wall Street Journal published a damning investigation directly implicating a Call of Duty executive in the rampant misconduct. This did enough damage to the company to precipitate a sale to Microsoft, but seemingly didn’t have anything to do with the success or failure of Vanguard.

The game, it should be pointed out, was still a top-seller, just not as much as Activision, or at least its shareholders, have become accustomed to. In order to get back in their good graces, at least until the planned $US69 ($96) billion deal with Microsoft closes, the publisher is promising “the most ambitious plan in Call of Duty history” in the form of Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 2, a reboot of a sequel to a spin-off. Activision is banking on the “return to the Modern Warfare setting that delivered our most successful Call of Duty title ever” to reinvigorate growth. In the meantime, it’s urging shareholders to vote no on a new proposal to make it more transparent about misconduct claims at the company.


  • It didn’t sell well because it was bland and boring. It didn’t push the series forward at all. It was a dial in game made with minimum effort.

    • Yeah, but that’s been true of several previous titles and never stopped them from selling like crazy before. 😛

  • “Didn’t meet our expectations”… well stop trying to meet YOUR expectations, start by trying to meet the fans expectations.

    When AAA developers deliver B grade gamess, with broken promises, broken content, convoluted live service models and somehow less content than previous games your lying to everyone about expectations… you knew it was going to fail, and you still released it cause you put arbitrary and unreasonable timeliness on development. It failed cause we no longer have confidence to buy your games, pre-order numbers and Week 1 sales should tell you that.

  • Maybe also people are just getting COD fatigue? I hadn’t played one for years but picked up a copy of the most recent modern warfare and LOVED IT.

    But then, after all that play, all those good times, Cold War was released. I’d just picked up a PS5 and wanted a PS5 game so I paid full price for the damn thing. It was fine, but not as strong as Modern Warfare. Meanwhile many, many modern warfare players are still questioning why we couldn’t have just kept going with Modern Warfare. And then, a year later, Vanguard.

    I didn’t buy it. I’m over it. It was good while it lasted but it’s just too much COD. I don’t think I’m alone.

  • They could learn from WWE 2K22 – they took a year off from the annual release schedule, and it’s paid off. It’s by no means a masterpiece, but it’s FUN and I didn’t feel like I’d been ripped off or taken for a ride.

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