Infinity Ward's next Call of Duty is all but confirmed to be the highly anticipated follow-up to the beloved Modern Warfare series, and it's rumored that publisher Activision is considering implementing free-to-play components in the game after perceiving Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 to have underperformed.
A return to the Modern Warfare setting has been rumored for the 16-year-old Call of Duty franchise for a while now, and whispers only grew when a small group of professional athletes got their hands on a playable build of the latest title. More recently, an influx of veteran Modern Warfare developers, along with a detachment of story-driven experience experts from Naughty Dog, were noted to have been making their way back to Infinity Ward, a movement of talent that points to a new Modern Warfare about as subtly as a blazing marquee. Activision has made it clear to investors that Infinity Ward's next franchise installment will feature some big changes to the Call of Duty formula, and free-to-play monetization strategies would certainly be the largest among them if co-opted.
According to anonymous sources who spoke with Kotaku, the next Call of Duty could be the first in mainline franchise history to embrace a free-to-play model. Because the details are so vague, this could mean anything from a free-to-start or smaller base price buy-in à la Rainbow Six: Siege to being a full-on free-to-play title rife with user spending opportunities. Reportedly, this shift in monetization is being spurred by Activision's dissatisfaction with their long-term return on investment with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, wanting (as always) to better milk players beyond the initial purchase of the base game.
Understandably, these inside sources also claim that "some within Activision have remained resistant to the idea," though the explicit reasons behind that assertion aren't provided. However, it's not particularly hard to come up with a few explanations on one's own, with a major one being the fact that the Call of Duty franchise stopped growing at its explosive rate after it stopped innovating the shooter genre with the Modern Warfare franchise. Now that a very different Activision and Infinity Ward are finally returning to may fans' favorite memories of a series that revolutionized modern multiplayer, the out-of-touch publisher would be wasting a major opportunity to stop copying competitors like Fortnite and allow Infinity Ward free reign to lead the genre rather than follow it.
Quality has never gotten in Activision's way on its path to make as much money from trends as possible before the bottom falls out on them, and it's doubtful that the notorious publisher will decide against going free-to-play with the next Call of Duty in the name of quality alone if that's already their current plan of action. Arguably, most of today's AAA multiplayer-centric games have free-to-play elements in them already, so at this point it's really more of a question of how much more deeply this approach will be embedded in this year's entry and how much will players tolerate it.