Ring ring, it's Oscar Mike.
The next big installment in the Call Of Duty franchise is Modern Warfare, a game looking to reimagine what the series is about, pushing it in new thematic directions while maintaining the blockbuster-style feel the games are known for. At the same time, Activision is also looking to push the popular shooter in a different direction: mobile phones.
Call of Duty: Mobile is a standalone free-to-play game, developed by Timi, a studio owned by Chinese conglomerate Tencent. It aims to replicate the feel of the series across multiple game modes (including Team Deathmatch and Frontline) and familiar maps (like Nuketown and Crash), taken from existing Modern Warfare and Black Ops installments. And yes, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a battle royale mode.
The game has, at the time of writing, soft-launched as a beta in Australia and India, with other regions to follow. To coincide with its release, GameSpot had a chance to pose questions to Activision's Vice President of Mobile, Chris Plummer, about the company's intentions with the title, as well as their overall positioning on mobile titles and their ever-contentious topics of microtransactions.
GameSpot: What has Activision's success on mobile platforms been like so far, and how has that informed what you're now trying with COD Mobile?
Chris Plummer, VP of Mobile, Activision: Activision has published premium mobile titles in the past. This aligned well with the state of the console and PC business at the time and they were all very highly rated experiences. Now, there is a much larger audience of players on mobile who are very comfortable with free-to-play games. We want to provide them with a world-class Call of Duty experience they can play, that brings together gameplay and content from across the Call of Duty franchise, in a free-to-play mobile game.
This game was made by Tencent's Timi studio--what were some of the challenges working with a developer whose expertise is in titles for a completely different market?
There is always a learning curve at first when working with a team you haven’t partnered with before. I think Timi and Activision have done an incredible job at working together to deliver a fantastic game. The truth is, all games become even better when different points of view are taken into account. It’s true that tastes in the East and West are not identical, and we acknowledge that in various differences in the software and user experience for the East and West versions of Call of Duty: Mobile, but there are just as many great ideas that have surfaced from one region or the other that have made the overall global experience the best it can possibly be. I see this as a competitive advantage and something our players will appreciate.
It was only confirmed months after COD Mobile's initial announcement that the game would be released in the West. What made you want to bring the title to other parts of the world beyond China?
Call of Duty: Mobile is an ambitious and feature-deep game. We’ve always wanted this title to launch for a global audience, so we’re working closely with Timi to ensure we’re addressing the needs and player tastes of fans in both the East and the West.
What is the demographic you're hoping to capture with COD Mobile? Are these existing Call of Duty console players, or people whose primary mode of gaming is their smartphone?
We are casting a broad net with Call of Duty: Mobile. Mobile FPS players are likely to be the first in line to play, but there are tons of Call of Duty fans out there who are not playing mobile titles yet, who we hope to engage, as well as gamers who may have played Call of Duty, but don’t have the same amount of free time anymore. We have maps, modes, weapons and characters from Modern Warfare and Black Ops, so longtime Call of Duty fans will have an awesome time. And with mobile, you can engage anywhere anytime, at your pace, which makes it much more accessible to players who can no longer book an hour or two in front of their TV or PC for an extended gaming session on traditional platforms. We’re also offering a very wide selection of modes and ways to play on mobile, so no matter what kind of free time you have or how competitive you are, there is a mode for you in Call of Duty: Mobile. This is a Call of Duty hallmark and we are proud to be the only mobile FPS title to really deliver on it.
What drove you to make sure that COD Mobile was a console-like experience on mobile, rather than another genre of game that might be more commonly associated as being mobile-friendly?
From the start, our aim was to deliver a signature Call of Duty experience--above all other priorities. That made it easy to go deep on our FPS systems and Call of Duty content so there can be no mistake that this really is Call of Duty on mobile.
COD Mobile is entering a space that's also populated by Fornite and PUBG Mobile. Is a battle royale mode something you considered for COD Mobile? Is it still something you're considering?
Yes, as players in our regional beta tests will begin to see, Call of Duty: Mobile features a standalone Battle Royale mode that brings together Modern Warfare and Black Ops elements together into one distinct survival experience. It’s a ton of fun, and we’re excited for players to try it out. In fact, we have begun testing in some regions!
What kind of learnings have you taken from the monetization models on other Activision-owned mobile titles, and how have you adopted or adjusted that for COD Mobile?
There is little crossover from previous Activision mobile titles. Our design is more informed by where the mobile audience is today and what works for first-person action titles, while bringing our own experiences as a team that has considerable experience in making FPS titles, mobile games and free to play services too. Above all else, gameplay had to be right, because this is Call of Duty, and we are committed to delivering that above all else.
Have you considered any kind of tie-in content between COD Mobile and the upcoming COD releases coming to consoles this year? Is that something you're looking to do?
Call of Duty: Mobile pulls together maps, modes, characters and weapons from across the Call of Duty franchise, including Modern Warfare and Black Ops series, so that’s our focus right now.
It’s always a good thing to see a market grow by introducing new players and new interaction models. I like the fact that new mechanics and cultural phenomenons continue to emerge from mobile gaming. It’s really exciting! For us, we’re focused on delivering the definitive FPS action experience on mobile, bringing the signature Call of Duty gameplay, and a unique coming together of the franchise into one universal game for mobile players.