Yesterday, Activision announced that it was launching an entire business unit dedicated to expanding the Call of Duty brand to new genres and business models. The news came one day after the CEO and president of the studio that created Call of Duty, Infinity Ward, appeared to have been fired and their former shop marginalized from the series. Activision now lists the Encino, California, developer as working only on the two downloadable expansions to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, due out later this year.
In its statement yesterday, Activision confirmed that COD: World at War studio Treyarch was working on this year's installment in the series. It also made the following statement:
"The company is also for the first time announcing that a new game in the Call of Duty series is expected to be released in 2011 and that Sledgehammer Games, a newly formed, wholly owned studio, is in development on a Call of Duty game that will extend the franchise into the action-adventure genre."
With Activision offering no further clarification to the press, many game-news outlets took the comment to mean that Sledgehammer Games was developing a possible third-person spin-off of the series for a 2011 release. The company, however, was much more forthcoming with Wall Street analysts, several of whom clarified in notes this morning that there are now at least three full-fledged Call of Duty titles in the pipeline.
"Activision also confirmed that a new Call of Duty title was in the works for 2011 (but notably did not attach Infinity Ward's name to it), and announced a new Call of Duty title in the action/adventure game to be designed by a newly formed studio, Sledgehammer Games, but would not confirm a 2011 release date for this new action title," said BroadPoint AmTech's Ben Schachter.
After also confirming a third COD, Signal Hill Capital Group's Todd Greenwald went even further. He thinks that Activision's massively multiplayer Call of Duty licensing negotiations could result in an Asian-produced title "featuring an entirely new business model driven by high-margin digital, online content and/or subscription fees." He believes that it's "possible" such a game could arrive as early as 2011, given enough development resources.