Free-to-Play Call of Duty 2023 Explained (No, Call of Duty Isn't Skipping a Year)

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Call of Duty 2023 Isn't More Warzone 4
Credit: Activision

In a rather shocking turn of events, Call of Duty is reportedly skipping 2023, delaying Treyarch's next game into 2024 and leaving 2023 totally absent of a new Call of Duty game. This would be the first time in two decades that a year has gone by without a new Call of Duty. The thing is, though, that Call of Duty isn't actually skipping 2023.

A new Warzone game is expected in 2022; regular updates to 2022's Modern Warfare II are expected in 2023; and most importantly, a brand new free-to-play Call of Duty is coming in 2023. In this article, we'll explain free-to-play Call of Duty 2023.

Call of Duty 2023 Isn't More Warzone

Call of Duty 2023 Isn't More Warzone
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Credit: Activision

Warzone got a major update in 2021 with the release of Call of Duty: Vanguard that added in a new map, WWII weaponry, and upgraded the game's engine, but a lot more is planned for 2022.

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Related: Will Microsoft Make Call of Duty a Free To Play Exclusive?

Infinity Ward's sequel to Modern Warfare (2019), Modern Warfare II, releases this year, and Modern Warfare (2019) is the game that first introduced Warzone to the world. Accordingly, the next big Warzone experience is also expected this year. It's unclear if that will be Warzone 2 that gets bundled in with Modern Warfare II or something else, but it is coming.

With major Warzone releases coming out in 2021 and 2022, it doesn't make sense to expect another huge Warzone release in 2023. So Call of Duty's in-development "new free-to-play online title" that's being supported by Treyarch for a 2023 release can't be Warzone-related.

Plus, we already know what's next for Warzone beyond Activision's promises of a new Warzone experience in 2022: Warzone on mobile. We've recently seen job listings at Activision specifically oriented around bringing Warzone to mobile, so while from a job posting we can assume that mobile Warzone is a ways off, it is on the horizon.

Related: Call of Duty Will Be an Xbox Exclusive

All of this adds up to one question: So, what's the free-to-play game coming in 2023 if it's not more Warzone?

Call of Duty 2023 Isn't Call of Duty: Online

Call of Duty 2023 Isn't More Warzone 2
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Credit: Activision

In the East, Call of Duty had a free-to-play option as far back as 2015 with Call of Duty: Online. It had a familiar setup where you'd grind endlessly to unlock new guns, skins, and customizations out of a mobile game economy while you played more traditional 6v6 Call of Duty multiplayer.

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The game was fairly successful in the East, but it was finally shut down in 2021 as Activision tried to push all their Call of Duty: Online fans towards Call of Duty: Mobile, which looked, played, and was designed a lot like Call of Duty: Online. Plus, mobile gaming is more relevant in the East, so it made sense not to have two competing free-to-play Call of Duty games.

Call of Duty: Mobile is a thing in the west, too, so resurrecting the now-dead 7-year-old Call of Duty online as 2023's free-to-play Call of Duty doesn't make a lot of sense. Especially when you consider that Call of Duty: Online never came to the West because it wasn't expected to do well there. It looked dated and was monetized to the point that Western audiences would find distracting and frustrating.

Related: How Microsoft Can Fix Call of Duty and Why It Might Happen

Call of Duty: Online probably isn't getting resurrected anytime soon, but the core idea behind the game is likely here to stay...

Free-to-Play Call of Duty 2023 Explained

Call of Duty 2023 Isn't More Warzone 3
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Credit: Activision

The only thing that makes a ton of sense for a free-to-play Call of Duty game is giving the Warzone treatment to a different part of the Call of Duty world. Warzone is a battle royale game supported indefinitely with new updates, content, and events, but it's also a Call of Duty game, which are games that tend to get forgotten after a year.

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What if there was a free-to-play traditional boots-on-the-ground Call of Duty multiplayer experience you could download and play whenever you wanted? What if outside of the new take on the Call of Duty formula you see each year with a new game you could always return to the familiar Call of Duty multiplayer experience you know and love?

Outside of Modern Warfare (2019), Call of Duty games haven't done as well as they once did for a long time, and the series has been focused on relatively contemporary settings for quite a while, as well, so making more games like that doesn't make a lot of sense.

Related: Is Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies Good?

Warzone, as a free-to-play game, has been massively successful, though, so why not put 6v6 modern Call of Duty multiplayer out as a free-to-play experience while you have the Call of Duty developers make games set in the past or in the future, while fans can still enjoy what's familiar with the live service.

Theoretically, Activision can get a Call of Duty fan, even a casual one, to play up to four separate Call of Duty games at once, if they offer a free-to-play game like the one described above. For battle royale, Call of Duty has Warzone. Play that with your buddies when you want some fast-paced BR action. For classic Call of Duty multiplayer, you could play this free-to-play game. Whenever you and your friends want to relive the Call of Duty glory days, jump on the free-to-play game.

When you're on the go, there's Call of Duty: Mobile you can play when you aren't by a console or a PC. And then, if you'd like to play Zombies, an action-packed Call of Duty campaign, or try out the latest spin on the Call of Duty formula, check out the new game each November. It'll look pretty and play different from what you're used to, but it'll still be Call of Duty.

Related: Why Is SBMM, or Skill-Based Matchmaking, in Call of Duty?