With three main studios along with several other smaller developers providing support, Activision can consistently put out a new Call of Duty game every year. However, for the past half-decade or so, gamers have been asking the publisher to try and tone things down a bit. Most gamers think that the franchise is already suffering from burnout and could benefit from a year-long break or two. Unfortunately, it appears that Activision has no plans to listen, with the wheels already set in motion for Infinity Ward's next Call of Duty game in 2022 and Treyarch's turn in 2023.
Having said that, Activision is a smart company. It knows that if the sales don't keep up, then it might have no choice but to reevaluate its plans, and we might have just reached that point.
Will Vanguard's lackluster sales force Activision to change?
Call of Duty: Vanguard is the latest title in Activision's popular shooter franchise. The game sees Sledgehammer Games return to making Call of Duty games after taking a hiatus following the lackluster sales of Call of Duty: WWII back in 2017. Similar to its 2017 showing, Vanguard also takes place in World War II. The main difference is that Vanguard introduces several liberties with historical events and is more of an alternate take.
While Vanguard received a lot of hype before its launch, it got mixed reviews from critics. Now, it looks like the consumers have spoken and the sales numbers are not a good look for Activision.
According to GamesIndustry, fewer people are buying Call of Duty games than ever. Vanguard's sales, in particular, are down by 26% compared to Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War, which was released in 2020. What makes this worse is that digital sales of Vanguard are lower by as much as 44% compared to last year's. This continues a downward spiral in sales for Call of Duty. Case in point, Black Ops - Cold War saw a 64% drop in physical sales when compared to 2019's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare by Infinity Ward.
There are two ways that Activision can interpret this decline. The first one is that it's natural because the UK typically has lower physical sales. The second is that Call of Duty is experiencing fatigue and Activision might have to step back lest it risks a further decline in the future.
If it's any consolation, the UK's numbers are not representative of the rest of the world. Until we get our hands on sales numbers from the United States and Asia, as well as other major markets, we won't know for sure just how badly (or not) Call of Duty is faring in terms of sales.