Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Battle Royale mode, Blackout, has a huge problem... and it's Call of Duty. It's future is in a murky state due to the inevitability of the next annual entry in the Call of Duty franchise. Black Ops 4 isn't a revolutionary online military shooter; it has the same familiar fun of previous Call of Duty installments, but it's successful in its modest ambitions. The controversial decision to drop a single player Black Ops campaign for a purely online experience has paid off, especially with a few of Black Ops 4's new online modes.
Since the very first Black Ops game, the highlight has been the cooperative zombie mode, but in Black Ops 4, the zombies are joined by Blackout. As Activision and Treyarch's answer to Fortnite and PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds, Blackout has a tremendous amount of entertainment value. It plays smoother and looks better than PUBG on consoles, and it's use of Call of Duty's signature perks gives Blackout its own unique feel. Unfortunately, unless Activision radically changes how it approaches the Call of Duty franchise, Blackout isn't built to last.
It was a very smart move for Call of Duty to try to hop onto the Battle Royale craze and create Blackout. It's not a cheap rush job, either. There's a particular level of detail and care put into Blackout, even if it's borrowing heavily from other Battle Royale games. However, Fortnite proved to PUBG that there's no real ownership on the format of 100 players dropping onto an island to declare a sole survivor. From a design standpoint, Blackout is solid, but its ties to the Call of Duty franchise is a fatal flaw. Battle Royale games are meant to last for a long time, if not forever. And Call of Duty is notable for being an annual franchise, which is the antithesis of a Battle Royale game. It just released, and the clock is already ticking on Blackout.
There's very little known from the next Call of Duty that's coming from developer Infinity Ward, but it certainly is coming in 2019 (and evidently will have a single-player story mode). Yet, in recent years, Infinity Ward has taken a lot of cues from Treyarch and the Black Ops series when crafting their Call of Duty games. Zombies mode started as a pure Treyarch invention with its own expansive storyline told over several games, but Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Ghosts added a similar mode, called Extinction. This was followed by Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, which cut out the pretense and added a proper zombies mode. This helped give Call of Duty some uniformity but also took away part of what was special about Treyarch's last game: Black Ops III.
Given how well received Blackout has been between fans and critics, it's likely the same thing will happen with a Battle Royale mode. (Although Infinity Ward's Battle Royale will probably receive a new name as Blackout is linked directly to Black Ops 4.) If Infinity Ward does create their own Battle Royale mode, that immediately makes Blackout a lot less appealing. There's no need to invest time in Blackout if it's just going to be supplanted by Infinity Ward's take on Battle Royale. No matter what time period or setting the next Call of Duty uses, it probably won't look or play that dissimilar to Blackout. Infinity Ward can only do so much to separate itself and still remain a Call of Duty game.
It's a little unfair to compare Blackout to the likes of Fortnite since Blackout has only been around for about a month, but one game is attached to a triple-A title while the other is free-to-play. Fortnite: Battle Royale originally released in late 2017 in a very rough form and has exponentially improved with each and every one of its seasons. Fortnite and PUBG are juggernauts that are constantly reinventing themselves, especially the former. Even after Fortnite's current season 6 ends with its spooky themes, Epic Games has set an expectation that a radical evolution is always on the horizon for players. There's not that same sense of progression and hope for the future with Blackout. The only chance Blackout has to compete with Fortnite and PUBG is for it to be the only Call of Duty Battle Royale mode or for it start reinventing itself constantly with new updates and mechanics so it can't be ignored, even when the next Call of Duty releases.