A new Call of Duty game is coming in late 2021. The question is, will the game take place in a new setting or be a sequel to an existing COD series?
Not even COVID-19 can stop the march of Call of Duty! Despite fears that Activision may take twelve-months off, Call of Duty 2021 is coming later this year.
The game was announced earlier today during an earnings call between Activision and their investors. But the question now becomes what will Call of Duty 2021 look like, or what will its setting be?
Call of Duty’s setting is a complicated beast. The franchise flits between World War 2, later 20th-century conflicts, modernity, and futuristic settings. Although it’s fair to say that some COD settings are more celebrated than others.
Call of Duty Settings of Previous Games
The original Call of Duty trilogy was set during the Second World War. The franchise returned to this setting in 2008’s World at War, then again nine years later in 2017’s WW2.
Modern Warfare does exactly what it says on the tin, offering a contemporary setting influenced by real or current world conflicts. Or conflicts that could feasibly happen – in a far from ideal world.
Infinity Ward traditionally develops the Modern Warfare games. This branch of the series arguably represents the most acclaimed titles in all of Call of Duty.
The Black Ops games, developed by Treyarch, represent the second most valuable COD property, yet the setting varies wildly across each game. The first and most recent Black Ops games take place during the Cold War and Vietnam.
Settings in which espionage or ‘black ops’ took place frequently to gain an advantage, instead of traditional military tactics. Although Black Ops 2, 3, and 4 utilized a more futuristic setting – more akin to science fiction than anything from history.
Could the COD 2021 Setting Return to Sci-Fi?
Games like Call of Duty: Ghosts, Advanced Warfare, and Infinite Warfare also all used futuristic dystopian settings. Although each had a different theme.
While all three of these games were a commercial success, none of them spawned a sequel or connected to any previous COD universe. Instead, Activision returned to the fertile ground of WW2, Black Ops, and Modern Warfare.
The door is still open for a sequel to any of the above titles should the publisher greenlight one. But the past four mainline COD entries (WW2, Black Ops 4, Modern Warfare 2019, and Black Ops Cold War) have been safe bets for Activision.
Yet, the company can’t keep this approach going forever. Franchise fatigue is very real, and Activision needs to make sure Modern Warfare and Black Ops games don’t overstay their welcome, as some feel they once did before.
On the other hand, each time the publisher tries something new, such as Ghosts, AW, and IF they end up with egg on their face. So, it’s understandable why they returned to their most successful COD settings in recent years.
Now it’s 2021 and our thoughts turn to the next iteration of Call of Duty; the franchise is at a crossroads.
Call of Duty 2021 Setting Predictions
Let’s weigh up everything we know about the COD 2021 setting. For starters, some rumors suggest the game will be helmed by Sledgehammer – who also produced WW2 and Advanced Warfare.
If Activision sticks to their three-year development cycle, then it is indeed Sledgehammer’s turn instead of Infinity Ward or Treyarch’s. The only issues are, with the pandemic and the studio’s recent structural changes – will Sledgehammer be in a position to make a full COD game for 2021?
They could receive help from Treyarch, Infinity Ward or Raven Software. The latter often work in this capacity when it comes to COD, so it’s not outside of the realm of possibility.
The setting of a COD game is usually influenced by whichever studio is producing it. Therefore, whoever the developer is usually provides a big clue to as what the next COD game will be.
After the Modern Warfare reboot's success in 2019, Infinity Ward is likely hard at work on MW2. The question is will they have enough time to release Modern Warfare 2 in 2021, as one leak suggests?
We can comfortably rule out a Black Ops game in 2021 or any of these games' associated settings. As we just had one release in 2020.
Treyarch is likely already planning their next entry in the series for either 2022 or 2023. Whether it’s a new Black Ops game or something entirely new remains to be seen.
Therefore, it boils down to either a new Modern Warfare game/setting in 2021 with Infinity Ward at the helm. Or something more mysterious under Sledgehammer.
Call of Duty Needs a New Setting – Which Sledgehammer Can Deliver
Unlike Treyarch and Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer has struggled to really nail down a series setting within COD to call their own. The other two studios are synonymous with either Black Ops or Modern Warfare, but Sledgehammer is yet to achieve this.
Both Advanced Warfare and WW2 were well received by fans, but trail behind the Modern Warfare and Black Ops series in terms of popularity.
Even WW2 is a spiritual sequel to 2008’s World at War - a Treyarch COD game. Therefore potentially part of their Black Ops continuity.
If the rumors about Sledgehammer being COD 2021’s developer are true, the studio will need to decide where (and when) the game is set. The options are Call of Duty returning to a futuristic setting - or a new era of history.
There are many conflicts throughout human history for Call of Duty to visit. Both Gulf Wars seem interesting and poignant candidates.
A setting like this could also sit neatly beside the Modern Warfare and Black Ops games. Not to mention work alongside Call of Duty Warzone – which will be Activision’s top priority for a ‘Long Time’.
A game set too far in the future (or too far in the past) would represent a challenge for Warzone integration. Where a game set in a similar era would be easier for the devs and the players.
It would also finally give Sledgehammer a COD franchise of their own. And would represent something new and fresh.
Alternatively, Sledgehammer could produce a sequel to their Advanced Warfare game or a new futuristic COD entry. Although we think this would feel misplaced as part of the Warzone family of games.
It's worth pointing out that Activision has already ruled out a sequel to WW2.
Shared Call of Duty Universe
Activision seems to be sowing the seeds of an interconnected COD universe, with multiple games, settings, and eras comprising this.
Of course, shared universes are in vogue right now – and it would be preferable to each COD series existing in a separate continuity. It could open lots of doors for COD’s future and allow them to wipe the slate clean at the same time.
Modern Warfare has already been rebooted, and there is connecting tissue between it and Black Ops Cold War. This suggests that future COD games from either series will be part of this new shared universe.
Interestingly, Black Ops Cold War is a sequel to the original Black Ops, which in turn shares continuity with the World War 2 era games. While Cold War was a soft reboot of sorts for Black Ops, the series' events are still canon.
And presumably, so is its version of the future seen in Black Ops 2, 3, and 4. This essentially scrubs games like Ghosts, AW, IW, and the first three Modern Warfare games from the record.
It creates a Call of Duty timeline behind the five games set during the Second World War, the Black Ops series, then the newly rebooted Modern Warfare games. Each one connected by shared characters and events - but with current and future games enveloped by COD: Warzone.
If this is indeed Activision’s goal, then the setting of Call of Duty 2021 will most likely be somewhere new. This way the game will have the added advantage of being under the Warzone umbrella, like the past few games.
This will enable players to retain a consistent online profile, increasing their motivation to purchase the next chapter in an ever-expanding COD universe.
While we don’t know exactly where the setting of Call of Duty 2021 will be, we’re confident that Warzone integration will be an essential factor – after all Season 2 may be upon us soon.