Sledgehammer games launched Call of Duty: Vanguard in 2021, but the game has been a pretty unambiguous commercial and critical disappointment. Maybe not a new low for the franchise, but nothing special. Considering Sledgehammer's history and the future of Call of Duty, there's reason to think Sledgehammer may once again become a support studio in the Call of Duty universe. In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know about why Sledgehammer Games may never make another Call of Duty.
The History of Sledgehammer Games
Sledgehammer originally helped Infinity Ward with Modern Warfare 3 before working on its first independent game, Advanced Warfare. Sledgehammer then worked on and released WWII; afterward, the studio assisted on Modern Warfare (2019) and Black Ops Cold War. Vanguard is the studio's third and latest game. Now, ask yourself, what do all these games have in common in the Call of Duty world?
The answer? They aren't some of the more noteworthy games. Yes, Advanced Warfare was generally well-liked on release, but in the years since, the advanced movement era of Call of Duty games is not looked back on fondly by the community. Then, WWI had an extremely rocky launch, and while Sledgehammer did do a lot of work post-release, the game never really took off. Plus, it lacked the personality of the earlier WWII-era Call of Duty games for many fans, much like Vanguard.
This isn't to say Sledgehammer is a bad studio. In fact, Sledgehammer is known for being more in tune with the community and more willing to update their games according to what the community actually wants than Treyarch and Infinity Ward. However, the games the studio makes on its own aren't generally massive successes in the Call of Duty world.
The history of Sledgehammer also exists in the context of other Call of Duty games. For example, both Modern Warfare (2019) and Black Ops Cold War, both more successful and acclaimed than Vanguard, also both struggled massively with content issues, bugs, and technical problems. This is, of course, not to mention the persistent problems in these areas Warzone continues to experience even today.
Suffice it to say that Raven, Infinity Ward, and Treyarch all could make ample use of a huge, dedicated support studio now more than ever, especially as Call of Duty games continue to get larger, more ambitious, and take more resources to develop.
Microsoft, Activision-Blizzard, and the Future of Call of Duty
Going forward, Microsoft will soon be directly in control of the Call of Duty franchise. Microsoft, though, isn't focused on maximizing revenue from Call of Duty, no, the company has bigger aspirations. Microsoft wants to sell Xboxes, yes, but more importantly, it wants to sell Game Pass subscriptions. These ensure a steady, massive stream of income directly to Microsoft each week, and Game Pass continues to work on more and more devices.
Accordingly, Microsoft doesn't care so much about releasing a game every year and packing in-game shops with microtransactions to maximize profits as much. It's not that the company doesn't like money, far from it, they want more of it from you, over time, than Activision does. Microsoft just wants Game Pass to become, essentially, the premier way to enjoy Call of Duty.
With the current pricing, Game Pass will already be the cheapest way to play Call of Duty, so what Microsoft needs to do is make Call of Duty the best it can possibly be. And it's widely agreed that fewer games with studios being given more time and resources to make games is the best way forward in terms of making the best Call of Duty games possible. For Microsoft, it's a much easier proposition than for Activision which has always been concerned merely with sales and profits for their own sake.
So, if Call of Duty games don't come out every year, Sledgehammer Games becomes a redundancy in a sense. The studio was pulled into developing its own games because Call of Duty development simply couldn't be done in two years, so if Activision wanted games out every year, they had to bring in a third major dev studio so the three could alternate on a three-year-long schedule. If Microsoft has Call of Duty abandon the yearly release schedule, then Sledgehammer could go back to being a support studio.
It could help Infinity Ward and Treyarch develop each of their games and make sure each game releases with enough content and a reasonable amount of bugs and technical issues, and Sledgehammer could take the lead on the live service aspect of Call of Duty games since the company is so well-known for being in touch with the community.