Love it or hate it, Call of Duty is one of (if not the) defining video game franchises of the 21st century. Well appreciated in its original form as one of many WWII-era first person shooters, the series catapulted to prominence with the (then) controversial decision to set the fourth main title in the present-day War on Terror with Modern Warfare. The game was a smash hit that cemented online-multiplayer military shooters as the definative trend in Western mainstream gaming and Activision's yearly COD update as the gold standard (in terms of sales) of the genre.
This being the traditional time of year for it, it's unsurprising that Infinity Ward would slate a major announcement regarding its popular game series. But some are now speculating that the developer could be poised to reveal the biggest evolution for the franchise in some time.
While Call of Duty remains comfortably well positioned in the market, the rapidly changing nature of console gaming has led to radical redefinitions in the genre in recent years. Most notably, the rising popularity of so-called "Persistent World Shooters" like Destiny and Tom Clancy's The Division -- which merge online-shooter gameplay with MMORPG open/expanding world content in the mold of World of Warcraft and its descendants -- have led many to speculate that the COD franchise may opt to itself follow that path.
— Infinity Ward (@InfinityWard) May 1, 2016
The now-confirmed title for the next installment, Infinite Warfare, would seem to suggest that this is the case. But at least fans won't have to wait long to find out what's actually in store for them: Infinity Ward's official Twitter confirmed that a special presentation was hitting on May 2, where the developers would discuss a "bold new vision" for the franchise.
While full indication has not been given as to what form this "bold new vision" will take, all signs point to a significant step forward and possibly a new direction for the series. Rather than teasing a new setting or narrative twist, early promotion has focused on reaffirming just how transformative the "modernized" Call of Duty was in its day; with an HD remastered version of the original Modern Warfare widely expected to be part of the Infinite package and a newly released behind-the-scenes retrospective clip hammering home the same message while also hinting at a further evolution to come.
A significant shakeup of the status quo was inevitable for the series, which has been criticized by even some of its most loyal players for a lack of forward-moving innovation in the current generation titles and questions of its pop-culture viability hovering for the last several titles. The series' claim to fame for close to a decade was bound up in being "the" military FPS reflecting the aesthetic of post-9/11 military operations and hardware, a distinction that led to big controversy but bigger sales. However, it's also possible that those ties have arrested perceptions of the series to a specific cultural moment in time that it has struggled to grow beyond, despite recent installments moving the action into futuristic cyberthriller territory.
Whatever new form Call of Duty takes, it remains to be see if the series has a long-term future in the emerging new makeup of the market. With just-for-fun running shooter mainstays like Doom and Wolfenstein returning in new-generation forms and the hardcore-multiplayer scene increasingly dominated by the likes of Destiny and The Division, whether or not COD can remain the dominant force it's been for so long is an open question -- one which fans and industry insiders will be hoping can be answered when the curtain goes up for Infinite Warfare in just a few hours.
Screen Rant will have more updates on Call of Duty as news is made available.