What could Call of Duty: 2016 possibly be?
Call of Duty: Black Ops III hits store shelves on November 6th, 2015 - a mere eight days away. As with any successful video game franchise, a new release always brings speculation about future titles in the same series, even when a it has just launched. Activision's Call of Duty might be the world leader for speculative fans, with its strange development system, devoted fanbase, and consistent formula for a game that's always the same, just tweaked differently each time.
Currently, one of the biggest industry secrets is the identity of Call of Duty: 2016 (CoD16). What could it possibly be?
The Call of Duty Development Cycle
For the sake of relevance, this article will focus solely on releases in the last decade.
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward) 
- Call of Duty: World at War (Treyarch) 
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward) 
- Call of Duty: Black Ops (Treyarch) 
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games) 
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Treyarch) 
- Call of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward) 
- Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Sledgehammer Games) 
- Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Treyarch) 
- Call of Duty: 2016 (Infinity Ward) 
Activision's dev cycle is particularly amusing to keep track of. For eight long years, Call of Duty development was shared between two studios: Infinity Ward and Treyarch. Due to disputes between Infinity Ward and Activision during the making of Modern Warfare 3 in 2011, Sledgehammer Games joined to complete the title, earning the necessary credentials to put forth their own Call of Duty title in 2014 and created a three year development cycle in the process.
Now, each year a new Call of Duty is made by a different developer, essentially giving each developer three years to work on their next game. The start of the three year development cycle was CoD: Ghosts by Infinity Ward. Next was CoD: AW by Sledgehammer Games and finally, in 2015 Black Ops III will be released. But what comes next?
CoD16 will be an Infinity Ward title. They are contracted to develop it, there's no doubt about it. They've been working since the release of CoD: Ghosts in 2013, but what have they been working on? There is no news regarding the topic of CoD16. Zero. Zilch. But fan speculation is running amok.
The options Infinity Ward has for CoD16 are:
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4
- Call of Duty: Ghosts 2
- New Project
- Modern Warfare Collection/Remake
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4
Arguably the most loved CoD series, Modern Warfare brought Call of Duty to the big leagues. With releases like CoD4: Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward dominated video games sales with exquisite, never-before-seen multiplayer action, an engaging career mode, and co-op missions. When fans are asked what their favorite Call of Duty is, the answer is almost always between MW2 and the CoD: Black Ops series.
In 2011, CoD: MW3 was largely regarded as unpolished. Due to the legal falling out between Activision and Infinity Ward, the game got a bad rap and didn't do so well. Two years later, excited fans were ready to get back on the Modern Warfare bandwagon. Unfortunately for them, CoD: Ghosts was announced.
Call of Duty: Ghosts was the last Infinity Ward game. Modern Warfare fans remain unsure of a future title, and no word has been given for or against it. Many members of the classic Infinity Ward team responsible for the Modern Warfare series left during the dispute, so there is widespread belief that the new team simply favors Ghosts and will not turn back.
The likelihood of Modern Warfare 4 being CoD16 is slim.
The campaign concluded in Modern Warfare 3 when the in-game villain of the entire series finally died. If they were real, the characters in the game would be moving into office jobs at this point in their military careers - not to mention one of the protagonists is dead. MW3 is a perfect conclusion to a full CoD trilogy.
To continue the series, Infinity Ward would have to reboot it: add all new characters, villains, weapons, plot, setting. They'd really be creating an all new series anyways. For this reason alone I don't foresee Modern Warfare coming back...at least, not in this way.
Additionally, writers often work titles well in advance. The writer of CoD: Ghosts probably had the script for Ghosts 2 ready before the first game even sold a copy.
Call of Duty: Ghosts 2
Speaking of Call of Duty: Ghosts 2, the likelihood of the sequel being CoD16 is very high.
As pointed out above, writers often work a small amount into the next title if they know a sequel is possible. This is so they can leave necessary cliffhangers to keep audiences aroused. The original CoD: Ghosts uses this exact technique.
The major villain in Ghosts is an agent named Rorke. Formerly a Ghost operative, he seeks revenge after one of the Ghosts leaves him behind. On a revenge-fueled rage, he seeks to rule the world through terror... blah blah classic bad guy stuff.
At the end of the game, players get a chance to shoot Rorke in the chest, which they gladly do after all of the heinous things they've see throughout the game. Boom: .44 Magnum shot in the heart. Dead, right? Wrong.
When players pull themselves out of the water (where they shot Rorke) and onto the beach, they see their victory as the ODIN (essentially a massive orbiting satellite missile launcher) rains hell on enemies in the distance. Then you get kicked in the face by none other than Rorke himself. Credits roll.
Additionally, if the game is beaten on it's hardest mode, an extra cut scene can be found at the end of the credits where players appear to be in some sort of cage.
The stage has been set for another CoD: Ghosts adventure.
It makes the most sense for CoD16 to be Ghosts 2. The story is set up, the characters are fresh and ready to be grown upon, and the setting and style don't need to be revitalized. However, the way that CoD: Ghosts might come back could make it an extremely different game from the original. More on that later.
It seems ridiculous that Infinity Ward would start an entirely new project from scratch. They just did this with Call of Duty: Ghosts and they've had three years to work out the kinks for a sequel. Although, new movement mechanics featured in both Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games' titles might influence this possibility. But for now, the chance of this happening will remain slim.
Modern Warfare Collection/Remake
A Modern Warfare collection is actually highly possible, though not necessarily as CoD16. Activision has been discussing this idea for quite some time, eventually coming to the conclusion that fresh, new games are more important.
In an interview with Game Informer, Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg said, "If done well, I think [remasters] can be great," and, more importantly,
"I would love to play Modern Warfare 1 or the original Black Ops. There's certainly a deep well there. No announcements, but it's something we talk about and think about a lot."
He also noted that,
"[Activision] need[s] every body [they] can get to make the content [they're] already committed to for [their] new games. It's always a matter of finding great people to do that work."
Based on these comments, a Modern Warfare collection would most likely be made by an exterior developer. Infinity Ward is obviously tied up working on Activision's "new games". Additionally, Activision would be worried about letting fans down by releasing a remake instead of a new game at feature Call of Duty time. So a Modern Warfare collection is possible, but probably not for CoD16, unless it's been kept on the hush-hush.
When the big picture is really analyzed, the CoD16 hype dies away. It's almost painfully obvious what the game will end up being. If it needs to be spelled out: G-H-O-S-T-S 2. Everything is set up for that game; the train is rolling. Three years in development better have been good for it, as there really isn't another clear direction for Infinity Ward to take.
As for the question of how they will tackle Call of Duty: Ghosts 2 (or whatever CoD16 ends up being)...that's a different topic entirely, and an adventure for another day. Advanced movement, setting, plot, multiplayer... competition with Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games has never been higher, and Infinity Ward really has to bring it this coming year.
Stay tuned for a sequential article detailing my speculations of advanced movement, among other things, for Call of Duty: Ghosts 2.