Activision's relatively new Call of Duty HQ infrastructure could be the key to a games-as-a-platform solution for the $33 billion shooter franchise.
Publishers are always trying to find new ways to create new business models and innovate on existing ones. Executing its four-part plan that was originally introduced in 2018, Activision has successfully created one of the most powerful unifications of F2P and premium gaming with Warzone. The company is capitalizing on multiple trends like battle royale in a cohesive, cross-monetized and cross-play ecosystem. Even back in 2020, I recognized that Warzone was clearly the biggest thing Activision had ever done. Things are now accelerating even more.
Call of Duty HQ is the latest manifestation of this plan. Right now, Call of Duty HQ is basically a unified launcher where players can access different COD games in one place. Gamers can launch a game, choose what mode they want to play, and jump in. It's a big more than that, though. Call of Duty HQ could end up being the franchise's own games-as-a-platform (GaaP) model.
Before we delve into things, let's talk about what games-as-a-platform means. We've seen games-as-a-service (GaaS), the microtransaction-driven model that has completely changed how games are made, paid for, and played. But games-as-a-platform is relatively new.
Some examples include Halo Infinite, which 343 Industries hoped would be the go-to spot for all future Halo games and content. The status of that plan remains unknown.
Another big example is Assassin's Creed Infinity.
Ubisoft describes this game as a kind of hub that will connect multiple games together. Think of one big launcher that can start all future Assassin's Creed games, complete with a microtransaction storefront for each game, some sort of social feature, and uPlay unlocks/integration. The goal seems to be to make software into their own kind of thriving ecosystem of products, content, and services within a platform like Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.
The last example is less concrete and just remarks made by Electronic Arts.
As part of its new 4 cornerstone plan, EA is currently shifting to focus more on what it does best--singleplayer hits and live games with thriving, million-player communities that cross between consoles, PC, and eventually mobile.
- Play - Actually playing the game
- Watch - Content streaming, Twitch, YouTube, etc.
- Create - User-generated content, think of the Sims and Battlefield custom games content
- Connect - Live services, multiplayer content, engagement-driven mechanics
EA CEO Andrew Wilson has mentioned games-as-a-platform frequently in a recent Q4 FY23 earnings call, saying that user-generated content, like what you'd see in Roblox, the Sims, or even Battlefield 2042 and the upcoming free-to-play Skate game, is a core part of games-as-a-platform.
Now on to Call of Duty HQ.
In a recent blog post, Activision refers to the new framework as:
"One access point for your future Call of Duty content. Starting with Modern Warfare II and Warzone, and now with Modern Warfare III and beyond, players can navigate all their content in one place, we call it Call of Duty HQ - making it easier to select which game and modes you wish to play."
So what does this mean exactly?
Call of Duty HQ isn't new and was introduced in 2022 with the release of Modern Warfare 2.
Basically, COD HQ allows future Call of Duty games to be found more easily and become more easily managed for players. For developers, Call of Duty HQ looks to be incredibly invaluable. Now that the most recent Call of Duty games all run on the same engine--Modern Warfare II, Warzone 2.0, and Modern Warfare III--it may be easier to deploy updates and make adjustments while deploying new content in one place.
YouTuber ProReborn has great breakdown of the key points:
Call of Duty HQ seems to be the next step after unifying new Call of Duty games under a single games engine. and Modern Warfare III's direct continuation of Modern Warfare II should benefit tremendously from this framework. Remember that pretty much everything you've unlocked in MW2 will carry over to MW3.
Another key aspect to Call of Duty HQ is giving more control to players.
Years ago, Infinity Ward announced plans to shrink Call of Duty Warzone using compression tools because the game was simply getting too big. COD HQ could give players a way to easily install/uninstall core pieces of newer Call of Duty games in order to make room for other content.
This is similar to Halo The Master Chief Collection, which allows players to uninstall/install various pieces of campaigns and multiplayer on a per-game basis. We could see something similar to this with Call of Duty games going forward.
In short, Call of Duty HQ may be bigger than just a launcher that packs in Call of Duty titles. It might be the beginning of Activision's next big iteration of its four-part business model.