Call Of Duty Keeps Bleeding Millions Of Players

Call Of Duty Keeps Bleeding Millions Of Players
Image: Activision

Success is relative. Many gaming companies would kill for a blockbuster franchise that’s an annual top-seller like Call of Duty. But for embattled publisher Activision anything short of top billing month after month isn’t enough, and Call of Duty has recently been falling short more and more.

The publisher revealed in its latest earnings report that its games lost over 30 million players in the last year alone. While Activision has published games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fuelled in the past, the bulk of its monthly active users (MAUs) come from Call of Duty. By the end of March 2021, that number was 150 million. Yesterday, Activision revealed it had fallen to 94 million.

That speaks to broad struggles across the franchise, but especially in Vanguard, the newest Call of Duty game released last fall. Its campaign was a brief and underdeveloped hodgepodge of WWII globetrotting, and the multiplayer didn’t fare much better. In June 2021, the previous year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was the second best-selling game. In June 2022, Vanguard didn’t even make the list.

Screenshot: Activision Blizzard / KotakuScreenshot: Activision Blizzard / Kotaku

Activision’s monthly active user count more than doubled after it released Call of Duty: Mobile in 2019 and then Call of Duty: Warzone in 2020, but growth in those areas seems to be backsliding or flat at best. Warzone in particular has struggled, in part because of delays, bugs, and crossover updates tied to Vanguard earlier in the year.

The company’s solution to all this is simple: more Call of Duty. The company confirmed in its report that it’s doubling down on every facet of the military shooter, claiming the end of the year will “usher in a new era” for the franchise. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II comes out October 28. A Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0 “experience” will be spun off of that. And Call of Duty: Warzone mobile is also still in the works, though Activision didn’t deny Bloomberg’s report that a major Call of Duty planned for 2023 had been delayed.

And if none of it works, well, that’s no longer CEO Bobby Kotick and the rest of Activision Blizzard leadership’s problem. Unless it hits regulatory snags with a newly emboldened Federal Trade Commission, the company will be sold to Microsoft for $US69 ($96) billion by next summer. The current executives will be on the hook for millions in bonuses, even as many current employees still call for greater accountability on discrimination and other reported workplace issues at the publisher.

Comments

  • Even if I hadn’t decided to stop giving money to a company that abuses its workers, the game itself is awful in so many ways.

    Warzone is fun enough but it’s 200gb, incredibly unstable, full of cheaters and brimming with micro transactions. It’s just a hostile environment and when I game I’m doing it to have a good time after living in the bullshit of the world. I don’t want to deal with IT issues, assholes and constant screaming for me to spend more and more and more money.

  • I have been reading a lot about how a lot of mega-corporations are seeing declines in their online active user counts… what I find interesting is that they are comparing to the lockdown-Covid phase (where everyone was home, and it seemed that a lot of people re-discovered gaming). It isn’t surprising to me that a lot of those people went back to old habits once life started getting back to normal (and I know that’s a relative term).

    It’s one of the issues that any subscriber model needs to contend with as well – it may seem like growth should continue – but at the end of the day people’s time/money is finite, and companies need to keep meeting core needs of gamers (even die-hard COD players it seems).

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