It takes a lot to keep the AAA machine running on an annual basis. Ubisoft has turned the multi-studio development model into an art, with seven studios working in concert to develop Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. These Ubisoft studios pitch in to develop each game, lead by a single team that passes the torch year-to-year.
Activision has been doing the same with its Call of Duty franchise, but the torch has been passed back-and-forth between two studios: Infinity Ward and Treyarch. With reviews of the series' last entry, Call of Duty: Ghosts, coming in lower than previous entries, it seems Activision has decided to add another lead developer to give IW and Treyarch more time with their respective games. During an investor's call, Activision announced that Sledgehammer Games is the lead developer of this year's Call of Duty, with the series moving to a three-year development cycle. That means Treyarch's next Call of Duty should be coming in 2015, with Infinity Ward's next offering in 2016.
"For the first time, this year's Call of Duty game, and future Call of Duty games, are being built on a three year development cycle," said Activision during the call, according to IGN. "There are several advantages to doing this, the first is, of course, quality. This will give our designers more time to envision and to innovate."
Sledgehammer Games has helped develop previous iterations of Call of Duty, but this is the first time the studio has led development. The studio was founded in 2009 by former Visceral Games developers Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey.
"Having the honor of developing the new, next generation of Call of Duty is a developer's dream come true," said Schofield and Condrey in a post on Sledgehammer's official website. "All of us here at Sledgehammer Games have a shared vision to create the best work of our lives. The next Call of Duty represents a new era for this amazing franchise, and we look forward to sharing what we have been working on."
Back in 2010, Sledgehammer Games was rumored to be working on its own Call of Duty game set off the beaten path: the title was set in space with a decidedly scifi bent. That game never appeared, but the theme behind this year's Call of Duty is up in the air. Will Sledgehammer return to the Modern Warfare brand that Infinity Ward left behind or blaze its own trail?
You'll be seeing more torch-passing development in the future as the larger publishers want to stick with safe bets. EA's been trying to get in on the action by alternating DICE's Battlefield games with Medal of Honor, but MoH: Warfighter didn't set the world on fire. The current plan looks to involve Schofield and Condrey's former home Visceral Games; the studio is reportedly working on a police-themed Battlefield game.