Long before it’s expected to be publicly revealed, new leaks and reports say that Call of Duty 2021 will head back to the battlegrounds of World War II, and be titled Call of Duty WWII: Vanguard. The reports come from both Modern Warzone and Eurogamer, who have each independently verified this information with their individual sources. Sledgehammer is largely believed to be the studio behind this year’s Call of Duty, following up on their own Call of Duty: WWII from 2017.
Some of the reports between Modern Warzone and Eurogamer differ, however. While Modern Warzone reports that the Vanguard name is a placeholder and will be changed before it’s revealed, Eurogamer’s sources indicate that Call of Duty WWII: Vanguard is the final title.
Modern Warzone says that the game takes place in the 1950s, in an alternate history where World War II didn’t end in 1945. Eurogamer, however, says they are under the impression that “Vanguard has a traditional WW2 setting.” Modern Warzone notes that they may misunderstand this part of the report, but that at least some scenes will take place in the 1950s. Eurogamer notes that they have a track record of correctly leaking Call of Duty titles for the past five years, which lends a lot of weight to these reports.
Notably, Vanguard will be only the second time in the last ten years that Call of Duty has returned to the World War II setting, the first being Sledgehammer’s own Call of Duty: WWII in 2017. It also comes into question how the title will integrate with the free-to-play Warzone considering the rather different settings and weaponry. There are already big plans for Warzone to allegedly switch to an ’80s-inspired setting soon to tie in with Black Ops Cold War, and we could see something similar around the second anniversary of the free-to-play game next year. Activision definitely plans to continue the support and integrations for Warzone, considering the title has given them the biggest year for Call of Duty ever. Modern Warzone reports that every Call of Duty game for the next five years at least will tie into Warzone.
However, it also appears that Activision may not expect Call of Duty WWII: Vanguard to sell as much as Black Ops Cold War. In February, Activision chief financial officer Dennis Durkin said “In our outlook, we are conservatively assuming Call of Duty premium units are lower year-over-year.” Considering the Modern Warfare and Black Ops subseries tend to be the flagship Call of Duty experiences, it’s understandable to assume that anything outside of those subtitles wouldn’t sell quite as well.
Recent years have upset the traditional Call of Duty release formula. Warzone added a mid-year free-to-play release that wove another Call of Duty experience into the yearly premium releases (in addition to introducing the free Seasonal content and Battle Pass system). While Sledgehammer was originally slated to be making 2020’s Call of Duty, the three-year/three-developer cycle was changed by slotting Treyarch back in last year for another Black Ops title, just two years after 2018’s Black Ops 4. Additional rumors suggest Infinity Ward will return for Call of Duty 2022 and is making Modern Warfare 2 to follow 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot. Where Treyarch and Sledgehammer will fall following that is anyone’s guess, though it’s safe to assume Activision will want to return to the standard three-year cycle they’ve had to allow ample time for each title’s development.