Call of Duty goes mobile, as announced at GDC
Image: Activision

On March 18, Activision kicked off the 2019 Game Developers Conference with a major announcement; a “Call of Duty” mobile game is coming.

The AAA publisher revealed players can now sign up to be notified for “Call of Duty: Mobile’s” official release. Activision also stated the game will be a free-to-play online multiplayer and its beta will be available this summer. Notably, the company will not be developing the iOS and Android title. Instead, Chinese mobile gaming giant Tencent will bring the iconic first-person shooter franchise to a new platform via its Timi studio.

Activision’s presentation also included some details about the forthcoming game’s technical specifications. It will be developed using Unity, the same cross-platform engine used to make “Cuphead” and “Monument Valley 2.” Moreover, it will utilize some high-end graphical features such as high-level physics and specular occlusion. As such, “Call of Duty: Mobile” probably won’t feel hugely different from previous modern incarnations.

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The California-based publisher also noted the new game will feature mobile versions of iconic “Call of Duty” maps like Nuketown, Hijacked, and Crash. The title’s modes will include 10 player free-for-all and five-on-five Team Deathmatch and Search-and-Destroy.

Players will also be able to “earn and unlock” beloved “Call of Duty” weapons, gear, and characters. So, that’s probably where the microtransactions come in.

Why a AAA Publisher is Going Mobile

Activision’s bread-and-butter is releasing games for the console and PC segments of the gaming market. Indeed, the corporation topped the 2018 bestseller list with “Call of Duty Black Ops 4.” But times are changing and the era of console-based gaming is nearing its end.

Thankfully, Activision seems aware of the coming paradigm shift. Last month, the publisher’s parent company Activision Blizzard laid off 800 workers as part of a reorganization. At the time, the conglomerate said it made the change to refocus on its core brands. Clearly, “Call of Duty: Mobile” was a key part of that initiative.

Although trying to break into a new platform is always difficult, spearheading the effort with one of gaming’s most recognizable franchises is a good idea. If Activision can deliver on announced features like “60 frames-per-second graphics, low latency, and super responsive controls,” the game could be a hit.

Moreover, the publisher made an excellent decision in partnering with the world leader in mobile gaming.

Tencent Wants to Expand its Market Share

In 2018, the global video games market was valued at $70.3 billion. More than one-third of that total, $23.1 billion, was the result of consumer spending in China. Moreover, the largest mobile games developer in that country, and indeed the rest of the world, is Tencent. But the company’s dominance is currently under threat.

The massive conglomerate has a diverse portfolio of domestic and international game products and companies. At home, Tencent dominates the market with exclusive titles like “Honor of Kings.” Abroad, it rakes in cash by virtue of owning significant stakes in Epic Games (“Fortnite”) and Bluehole (“PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds”) and owning “League of Legends” outright.

Unfortunately, the Chinese government believes Tencent makes its games a little too enjoyable. In 2017, Beijing slammed the corporation of fostering gaming addiction among the region’s youth. The company placated the government by placing time limits on the accounts of younger players but regulators are still scrutinizing Tencent over content concerns.

Last year, the situation continued to deteriorate when regulators scuttled the Tencent-facilitated Chinese release of Capcom’s “Monster Hunter: World.”

As Beijing is known for its intractability, the gaming titan needs to diversify its holdings to ensure long-term profitability. Partnering with Activision to develop “Call of Duty: Mobile” achieves that goal.

In 2015, Activision and Tencent teamed-up to release the free-to-play “Call of Duty Online” exclusively for the Chinese market. Consequently, Chinese gamers and international players might all have an interest in the new mobile game. Therefore, if Beijing decides to outlaw “Call of Duty: Mobile,” the corporation will still have 70 percent of the global games market to fall back on.

That’s as close as you can get to a can’t lose proposition in this landscape.

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