The Call of Duty machine can never stop. It must endlessly push forward, through lawsuits, controversies, and layoffs. To stop would mean…well, we don’t know, because it never has. And to help keep the machine going, Activision now has over 3,000 human souls working tirelessly on the publisher’s biggest and most successful video game franchise.
As spotted by TweakTown in Activision’s annual report to investors, the publisher explains that more than 3,000 people are now working on the popular military shooter franchise. This represents about 31% of its total currently employed staff of approximately 9,800. Even wilder, this means that close to half of the roughly 6,800 devs currently working for Activision are being used to keep the Call of Duty machine running. So many bodies sacrificed to the altar of hit markers and gun skins.
It’s not surprising to hear Activision is throwing this many people at Call of Duty. The franchise has remained one of its few reliably successful games, regularly selling millions of copies every year and bringing in billions of dollars. Last year, the publisher even moved its Toys For Bob studio away from developing Crash Bandicoot games to turn it into yet another support studio for Call of Duty Warzone. As of that change, seemingly every studio owned by Activision is, in some capacity, developing Call of Duty content or supporting Warzone-related projects.
In the same annual report, Activision says it’s “working on the most ambitious plan in Call of Duty history” and that it hopes a return to the super-popular Modern Warfare series will help it recover from last year’s slump with Call of Duty Vanguard. That entry underperformed according to Activision, a rare example of the machine stalling. Activision blamed the WW2 setting of Vanguard for its less-than-stellar sales, which is an odd excuse that seems to ignore the other big incident that happened last year.
Kotaku reached out to Activision but didn’t hear back before publication.
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Last July, allegations of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination at the company became public following an investigation and lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Call of Duty: Vanguard wasn’t officially revealed until August, much later in the year than usual for the series, and the response from players and critics was more subdued than in the past, in large part because many weren’t sure how to respond to the next big promotional campaign and video game released by a company accused of years of worker mistreatment.
Then, late last year, shortly after Vanguard was released, The Wall Street Journal published a report directly implicating a Call of Duty executive in alleged misconduct at the company. All of this did enough damage to the company to hurt its value and allow Microsoft to swoop in and begin the process of buying up the publisher.
So it seems more than ever, Activision needs the Call of Duty machine to keep on running, even if it has to throw everyone and their family at the machine to do it. Call of Duty can’t stop.