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This year’s Call of Duty will go ‘back to its roots’

Is a return to World War II really happening?

Call of Duty: United Offensive
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

This year’s entry in the Call of Duty series sounds like it will take a different approach than last year’s entry, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and alter the trajectory of the franchise over the past few years. In an earnings release today, publisher Activision said its 2017 title “will take Call of Duty back to its roots.”

On an investor call, Activision chief operating officer Thomas Tippl said 2016’s game, Infinite Warfare, “underperformed” and that “it's clear that for a portion of our audience, the space setting just didn't resonate.”

“Traditional combat will once again take center stage” in Call of Duty’s 2017 entry, Tippl said. He added that both the Call of Duty community and Sledgehammer Games are excited about this year’s back to basics approach.

Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg reiterated that while Infinite Warfare’s gameplay innovations were well received, its setting “didn’t appeal to many of our fans.” Hirshberg said that 2017’s game will achieve a balance of keeping the Call of Duty franchise fresh and vital, while also providing new innovation, but with a setting that will resonate with fans.

Hirshberg said this year’s Call of Duty was greenlit “over two years ago” and “we can’t wait to unveil it to the world soon.” Activision typically reveals new Call of Duty games in the spring, either in April or May.

While Activision didn’t share specific details on what developer Sledgehammer Games has planned for 2017’s Call of Duty, it implies that the companies may be leaving futuristic sci-fi warfare behind for something a bit more grounded.

The Call of Duty franchise started in 2003, when World War II era shooters were at their peak of popularity. Since 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the Infinity Ward-created franchise pushed further and further into the future, with 2015’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and last year’s Infinite Warfare featuring highly advanced drones, mechanized infantry and dogfights set in outer space.

Initial fan response to Infinite Warfare was resoundingly negative after it debuted and was famously disliked on YouTube. To date, the game’s debut trailer has received more than 3.4 million dislikes by viewers. Many detractors have urged Call of Duty’s stakeholders to return to the World War II era for the next game in the franchise.

Although last year’s Call of Duty underperformed, it’s clear the franchise can still command an audience. Activision said in an earnings report that Call of Duty was the number one franchise in North America for the eighth year in a row, with record annual monthly active users. The publisher said it plans to support its three active games, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Modern Warfare Remastered and Black Ops 3, with new content throughout the year.

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