Call of Duty isn't releasing a mainline game in 2023. Activision has, for the first time in decades, delayed the next major Call of Duty game after Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022) into 2024, and 2024's Call of Duty will be developed by Treyarch. But Call of Duty is getting a free-to-play release in 2023, and Treyarch has been working on this upcoming game.
Many have speculated this game will be a standalone zombies game, a mobile game, or even a 6v6 traditional CoD multiplayer version of Warzone, but few have realized the other possibility: a F2P, competitive, tactical CoD that competes with the likes of Rainbow Six Siege, Valorant, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In this article, we'll explain why Treyarch's free-to-play Call of Duty 2023 could be an esports Valorant/CS:GO competitor.
Call of Duty 2023 Isn't a Mobile Game or Standalone Zombies
Call of Duty already has a popular, successful mobile game: Call of Duty: Mobile. That isn't going away anytime soon. Plus, job listings have been posted at Activision searching for people to help build Warzone on mobile, so that's another mobile Call of Duty game we can expect in the coming years.
It doesn't really make sense to have a third mobile game in the same way it doesn't really make sense to launch a standalone Zombies game. Yes, Call of Duty Zombies has been and remains popular, but fans of the cooperative side mode are dwarfed by fans of the multiplayer mode.
Simply put, Zombies is a safe third mode for mainline Call of Duty games, and Activision can make more money by targeting fans of Call of Duty multiplayer than they can targeting fans of Call of Duty Zombies, so there isn't much incentive for Activision to have Treyarch develop Vanguard Zombies after Cold War Zombies before a standalone Zombies game which would be followed by Zombies in Treyarch's next major Call of Duty.
There's neither reason to burn fans out on Zombies content nor enough incentive to build out a full-fledged Zombies game, and even if Activision did, they risk jeopardizing sales of the mainline Call of Duty games if gamers can get their Zombies fix elsewhere.
This is also the most major reason why Activision wouldn't launch a free-to-play 6v6 traditional Call of Duty multiplayer game in the style of Warzone as its 2023 game: The company doesn't want to risk pulling people away from their annual Call of Duty games with free-to-play Call of Duty side offerings.
Naturally, launching another battle royale wouldn't make sense, especially as Warzone 2 approaches, and the era of hero shooters has largely ended, with games like Overwatch dominating the charts a lot less than they once did. But games like Valorant, Rainbow Six Siege, and Counter-Strike remain ever popular.
Call of Duty 2023 Will Be a Competitive, Tactical FPS
Call of Duty isn't going to try something radically new and launch a third-person shooter. This series isn't known for its radical innovations and whacky spins on its formula. Call of Duty is one of the biggest franchises in video games, so if you want to know what the future looks like, look at what else is successful.
The obsession with hero shooters led to Black Ops 4. The battle royale craze led to Warzone. And for the last few years, the biggest thing in shooters has been competitive, tactical action in the form of games like Valorant, CS:GO, or Rainbow Six Siege. While these are very different games, shooters focused on balanced, competitive action with an emphasis on teamwork, strategy, and skill have been the big thing in shooters outside of battle royale.
Call of Duty has never really done this before, but Treyarch is the studio that's come closest to doing so. Starting with Black Ops 2, Treyarch has brought League Play to Call of Duty, which is the series' form of ranked play. Treyarch's even working with Sledgehammer on Vanguard for that game's ranked mode.
Treyarch has been designing ranked Call of Duty modes for a long time, and League Play is generally considered to be the best form of ranked play in Call of Duty, as opposed to competitive modes in Infinity Ward or Sledgehammer games.
However, the biggest problem with the mode is that fans perpetually feel like it's never given enough attention, like it's never fully featured enough. This has historically been thought to be the case because so few Call of Duty players bother leaving the normal multiplayer for League Play. It's a vicious cycle: Fans would like a great ranked mode, but because they don't play the ranked modes as they exist, Activision assumes they don't want them.
Considering the popularity of competitive FPS games nowadays, a full-featured, standalone Call of Duty focused on competitive action makes a lot of sense. Plus, since the mode is never that big of a deal in mainline Call of Duty games, removing it from future games wouldn't impact sales, and if you wanted Call of Duty multiplayer, you'd play the mainline games anyways.
Modern Call of Duty games have a shadowy matchmaking system called SBMM that tries to match you against players of a similar skill level in normal play, so a ranked mode can feel redundant. This is also a major reason why many are reluctant to engage with a ranked Call of Duty experience. However, SBMM is rumored to be being overhauled in the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022), which is also slated to be supported for two years.
This change would make a lot of sense in conjunction with a League Play-style standalone release, giving Call of Duty fans the forever option to play their series' version of Valorant while keeping the mainline Call of Duty games about fun. And as the creators of League Play, Treyarch is the natural choice of studio to design such a game.