As Warzone surpasses the one-year mark, we look at how the premium feel, free-to-play experience has changed the way players engage with the Call of Duty franchise.
Just over one year since its release, Call of Duty: Warzone has amassed over 100 million unique users, and we are proud that it has brought players together in completely new and exciting ways.
So what exactly is Warzone? And how has its successful entry into the popular battle royale genre fundamentally changed the way in which players socially connect in Call of Duty?
The concept is simple: contestants are forced into an ever-shrinking environment where they must battle to the last person standing, all the while scavenging items and weapons to help them survive.
The concept gained traction in books like Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and later in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It wasn’t until after the 2012 release of the first The Hunger Games movie, however, that the battle royale concept became a popular video game genre and a fixture of pop-culture.
Early hints of the battle royale genre as we now know it surfaced as modifications, or mods, created using existing game engines, such as Survival Games in the Minecraft universe and DayZ based on Arma 2. These early iterations — along with advancements in gaming technology —paved the way for standalone battle royale games and the zeitgeist had begun.
For much of the franchise’s history, Call of Duty has been known for its multiplayer experience. With the rise of the battle royale genre, there was an opportunity to take the game’s social experience to the next level. In March 2020, Activision did just that with the introduction of Warzone, giving players the chance to compete in matches supporting up to 150 people in a massive but ever-shrinking battleground.
Before Warzone there were other key developments within the Call of Duty series, which helped combine to reinvent the famed franchise.
Previously in Call of Duty games, players could only play with others who had compatible systems: PlayStation players with other PlayStation players, and Xbox and PC players only with other Xbox and PC players, respectively. That all changed with the introduction of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare® in 2019. For the first time in Call of Duty franchise history, the implementation of cross-play allowed PlayStation, Xbox, and PC players to connect in one social environment.
Introduced in 2019, Call of Duty: Mobile brought the Call of Duty experience to the biggest platform in the world bringing in more fans, in more regions than ever before. Within days of its release, the game surpassed more than 35 million downloads on iOS and Android.
The result of packaging the battle royale format with cross-play in a free-to-play game is the wholly new and highly social Warzone experience.
So players can be fully invested in the team-based social gameplay at hand, Warzone offers a variety of playlists in-game: players can choose to team up in Duos, Trios, or Quads while facing other squads of the same size. Here’s a breakdown of the Warzone engagement numbers over its first year:
A central question that the team always grapples with is, ‘How can we create new experiences to bring our players together?’
In Warzone, Activision introduced two major innovations that just might give a glimpse of future possibilities.
On August 26, 2020, in preparation for the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, players in Warzone updated their game to see a new playlist called “Know Your History.” Following an intricate in-game operation that ended in an aerial barrage, players were directed to the Stadium where they then saw the world premiere of the game’s reveal trailer.
Activision also integrated the Battle Pass system — whereby players earn cosmetic and other in-game items in a tiered system based on time played and other factors — across Warzone and Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War. Aligning the free-to-play Warzone with Call of Duty’s premium titles has created an integrated ecosystem encompassing all three. As a result of this integration, players who earn in-game items in Warzone will be able to use them in Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War.
That’s not to mention Activision’s ongoing and free content updates that deliver new events, characters, and maps to players. For example, last year it introduced the iconic horror movie characters Billy the Puppet and Leatherface for the Haunting of Verdansk— a limited time Halloween-themed event.
With major events occurring in the just released Season 3, Activision is doubling down on its commitment to deliver a highly engaging social experience in a content-rich free-to-play format.
If you haven’t already, we hope that you’ll try Warzone for yourself. The team is incredibly proud of the work they’ve done to bring this paradigm shift in Call of Duty to life, and at Activision Blizzard, we love seeing our players connect in totally new ways.
Thanks for reading, and stay frosty.
For more information and the latest intel on Warzone, visit www.callofduty.com/warzone and follow @CallofDuty on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
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