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

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Microsoft bought Activision-Blizzard, and the sale is set to close in 2023. So, the future of Call of Duty is in flux. The next couple of games are mostly set in stone, sure, but what's next? Big changes could be coming to the franchise, and Microsoft could truly modernize Call of Duty by making it a free-to-play exclusive. In this article, we'll explain how and why this could, and maybe should, happen.

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Call of Duty Leaving PlayStation

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PlayStation Call of Duty fans, relax. The next three Call of Duty games are all but guaranteed to come to PlayStation, and this includes 2022's Modern Warfare II, 2023's Treyarch semi-futuristic boots-on-the-ground Call of Duty, and Warzone 2.

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We don't know much about these upcoming Call of Duty games, but we do know that PlayStation has a contract with Activision-Blizzard to bring exclusive Call of Duty content to PlayStation that stretches into the future. Microsoft has said it plans to respect Activision-Blizzard's preexisting contracts, so we can all expect a few more years of Call of Duty on PlayStation.

Related: Call of Duty Will Be an Xbox Exclusive

Not just that, but for the next few years Call of Duty will still likely play best on PlayStation, considering the exclusive content available for the platform. Beyond that, though, it's likely that Call of Duty will become exclusive to Xbox and PC. So, in 2025, don't be surprised if Microsoft announces big changes are coming to Call of Duty.

What A Post-PlayStation Future Could Look Like

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After Infinity Ward releases their reboot of Modern Warfare II; after Raven drops Warzone 2; and after Treyarch follows up their reboot of the Black Ops franchise with Cold War in 2023, Call of Duty will once again need a reinvention.

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Since Modern Warfare 2019, the Call of Duty games as 'reboots of the classic CoD formula' won't feel fresh or new anymore, and it will be time for a new direction. Fans overwhelmingly don't want 3D-movement or crazy hero abilities in Call of Duty, even if some of these systems were appreciated by some in previous Call of Duty games.

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

So, unless a new battle-royale-esque trend that Call of Duty can capitalize on with a Warzone-type experience appears, there's not going to be a clear new direction for the series to go in. Emulating games like Counter-Strike or Valorant doesn't make sense for an arcade shooter like Call of Duty, and the tactics of a Rainbow Six don't suit the series, either.

Fans love the Call of Duty gunplay and how fast and action-packed the experience of playing actually is, so messing with this core formula is exactly what could drive fans away while also being the best way to put a new spin on Call of Duty. So, how can Microsoft thread this needle?

The short answer? Turn the whole Call of Duty package into Warzone.

Call of Duty as a Free To Play Game

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People don't want Call of Duty to reinvent itself every year, and people don't need a super-expensive, flashy single-player campaign they spend a few hours playing and then never touch again. And people don't want side co-op modes, they want Zombies. And not a new take on the Zombies formula, they want classic, round-based Zombies.

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Related: Is Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies Good?

This doesn't describe every Call of Duty fan, but it does describe the majority of them, and this majority is also happy to enjoy new takes on the Call of Duty formula, just only if there's a good version of what fans know, love, and want out there first.

The best way Microsoft could address this desire is to make the entire Call of Duty package a live service free-to-play game. You'd download Call of Duty and get to choose between Zombies, Multiplayer, and Battle Royale.

The game would use an updated version of Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare engine alongside its gunplay with Treyarch balancing the multiplayer, designing maps, and handling Zombies, while Sledgehammer ran the game's live service elements.

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

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Each year, Call of Duty would have a number of seasons each with its own battle pass that you could level up to unlock content across the Zombies, Multiplayer, and Battle Royale modes. Each season would bring with it new maps, new modes, and new guns alongside a suite of events and competitive tournaments.

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Over time, older and less popular maps, modes, and weapons would get relegated to specific playlists while the main live game would always include the most popular content. Test servers with new mechanics, modes, or weaponry would be available often, and content players liked would eventually come to the main game.

As long as most things could be unlocked through gameplay or, at least, there were cool in-game cosmetics you could grind for, microtransactions where you could buy skins and camos wouldn't upset players and could, alongside battle passes, keep the money flowing in over the years, especially if players could continue using the stuff they bought even as the game changed.

Related: How to Fix Call of Duty: Vanguard Connection Issues, Crashing Problems, and Matchmaking Glitches

Warzone continues to be a massive success, and there's little reason to think that a multiplayer version of Warzone or a zombies version of Warzone couldn't be just as successful, or perhaps even more successful as the Warzone package was expanded to cover the entire Call of Duty universe, all for an upfront cost of $0.