Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’s single-player campaign was panned by critics when it released early on November 2. Reviewers hit it with low scores and said it felt short, rushed, and incomplete. Now Bloomberg reports that the game was rushed out in half the time of a normal Call of Duty sequel, with devs working nights and weekends to meet Activision’s annualized sales goals.
According to Bloomberg, the game was originally pitched to Sledgehammer developers as an expansion to Modern Warfare II that would focus on missions based in Mexico instead of the series’ normal globetrotting set-pieces. In the summer of 2022, however, Activision executives apparently rebooted the project as a full-fledged sequel about the Modern Warfare II villain Vladimir Makarov. The company needed to fill the gap left by an apparent delay of Treyarch’s next Call of Duty game, and reportedly decided against simply taking a year off from the blockbuster’s annual release schedule.
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A spokesperson for Activision denied this, however. Sledgehammer Games studio head Aaron Halon told Bloomberg in an interview that the developers who thought Modern Warfare III had originally been planned as an expansion were simply confused because it was a “new type of direct sequel,” despite the PlayStation 5 version of the game appearing as DLC on the trophies menu and asking some players to insert the Modern Warfare II disc.
But more than a dozen current and former Call of Duty developers told Bloomberg that Halon’s take “conflicted” with what they were initially told. Some of them also seemingly worked nights and weekends to try and get Modern Warfare III out on time, despite the game only having half the development time of a normal Call of Duty sequel. “They felt betrayed by the company because they were promised they wouldn’t have to go through another shortened timeline after the release of their previous game, Call of Duty: Vanguard, which was made under a similarly constrained development cycle,” Bloomberg reports.
Call of Duty has made billions for Activision, but the series has a long and increasingly-well-documented track record of burning out its developers. One of the big questions facing the franchise now that Microsoft owns it (after recently closing its $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard) is whether it will continue the seemingly unsustainable development cycles or let the blockbuster take a year off for the first time in decades.