Following plenty of rumors about the identity of the studio developing this year's mainline Call of Duty game, Activision has finally made the official announcement stating that it's Sledgehammer Games. While no other official information is available about the title, there is plenty of speculation going around.
Sledgehammer Games is a relatively recent addition to the family of game studios working on the genre defining military shooter franchise. For the majority of Call of Duty's existence, Treyarch and Infinity Ward tag-teamed the annual release schedule.
The last mainline Call of Duty game primarily developed by Sledgehammer was WWII, released back in 2017, with the studio mostly supporting other major releases in the franchise and presumably working on this year's game, which is codenamed Vanguard. Considering the way development time and costs have ballooned in the AAA industry over recent years, it makes sense that additional studios had to be roped in to keep up that yearly launch and provide support - like how Raven Software has joined this umbrella with support work on Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War.
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We are very excited for this year's premium Call of Duty release. Development is being led by Sledgehammer Games. The game is looking great and on track for its Fall  release.
- Activision president and COO Dan Alegre
Despite nearly universal delays striking the video game market due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures, which have forced companies across the globe to hastily switch to a work-from-home model, this news seems promising.
While fans probably won't have to wait more than the usual one year to jump into what's next for Call of Duty, we still don't actually know what 'Vanguard' will be about, what the setting is or any other exact features - but there is one interesting tidbit of information Activision confirmed: alongside single player, multiplayer and co-op experiences, 2021's Call of Duty will "integrate with and enhance" Warzone.
The standalone free-to-play battle royale is here to stay for the long haul it seems, its continued and increasing popularity in the Black Ops Cold War cycle giving Activision confidence that players will be sticking with the game through a third year at least, if not longer.
Launched alongside 2019's Modern Warfare, Warzone has changed a great deal to come more in line with the Black Ops Cold War aesthetic and setting. Together with the addition of a new map pulled from Cold War, the original Verdansk map was recently nuked and yanked back in time to the 80's, achieving temporal parity with the main multiplayer component.
— Sledgehammer Games (@SHGames) May 4, 2021
Rumors and unconfirmed leaks suggest that this year's CoD game will once again return to the setting that apparently never gets old - World War 2. The series has its roots in that conflict, with the first three titles all taking place during 1939-1945 and Call of Duty often going back there since. The never-ending appeal of the WWII setting in media is undeniable, and easy to understand - the lingering effects can still be felt on the world today, and it's both one of the biggest wars in history and one of the few with clear cut "bad guys". Killing Nazis is always great.
So what does this mean for Warzone? Based on the changes the battle royale underwent during the Cold War cycle, we'd guess that 'Vanguard' will add a new, third map that's a direct pull from the new game's story like Rebirth Island was, and the original Verdansk map may go through another time-skip. While the Red Army and Axis forces clashed in the Caucasus, most of the battles took place north of where the fictional country of Kastovia is located in Call of Duty, but a bit of historical fudging could paint Verdansk as an Eastern Front battlefield. After all, Call of Duty is no stranger to historical fudging.
We expect an official announcement of this year's title to come sometime during the summer, probably during E3 2021, an all-virtual event livestreamed for free later in June.