Development of next year’s entry in the Call Of Duty franchise seems to have gone through a significant shift this week, as reported by Jason Schreier at Kotaku. Apparently, publishers Activision have changed the studios working on the game, moving it from Raven and Sledgehammer to Black Ops developers Treyarch, who will be working to release Black Ops 5 a year earlier than expected.
One of the main reasons for Activision stepping in appears to be unspecified arguments between Sledgehammer and Raven staff. For several years, development has hopped between having Sledgehammer, Treyarch, and Infinity Ward as lead studios, to facilitate annual releases. This was initially Raven's first time as a (joint) lead, but instead it seems like the pattern is getting out of step, with Sledgehammer missing their turn and Treyarch picking up the reigns instead.
According to Schreier’s sources, that means 2020 will see the release of Call Of Duty: Black Ops 5 (or IIIII?), as Treyarch continue to follow their own narrative thread. The work already done by Sledgehammer and Raven will apparently be adapted into a single-player campaign.
But this cuts a year off the expected development time for Treyarch. Schreier writes that the studio’s developers are “already bracing for brutal overtime hours like they faced last year on Black Ops 4,” with the note that “We’ll have more to share about Treyarch and the development of Black Ops 4 in the coming weeks.” What with the multitude of crunch reporting produced lately, it’s not hard to imagine what that might say.
Compounding the issue is that Black Ops 5 may be shooting for a cross-gen console release, targeting the new PlayStations and Xboxes that are thought to be aiming for a 2020 launch. And the alleged arguing between Sledgehammer and Raven isn’t likely to help matters as both act as support for Treyarch as they try to condense a three-year development cycle into just two.
Sledgehammer’s co-founder Michael Condrey left Activision last year, shortly after some internal shuffling. He now heads another studio under 2K, which seems to have been hoovering up Slegehammer staff.
Activision-Blizzard made record profits last year, before laying off 800 employees.