Activision releases free-to-play 'Call of Duty' Battle Royale game

The release will have to contend with big-name Battle Royale titles such as 'Fortnite,' but is expected to be bolstered by the 'Call of Duty' name and the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

A screenshot from the trailer of the new Battle Royale game 'Call of Duty: Warzone.' (photo credit: screenshot)
A screenshot from the trailer of the new Battle Royale game 'Call of Duty: Warzone.'
(photo credit: screenshot)
US video game publisher Activision announced that their long-anticipated Battle Royale-style installment in the Call of Duty franchise is officially available for download.
The announcement of Call of Duty: Warzone came following several leaks over the course of the game's development period.
The first trailer for the game was released on Monday, March 9, a day before the official release.

The Battle Royale genre of video games first rose to popularity with the release of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) in 2016, as well as with later releases Apex Legends and Fortnite bringing its prominence into the mainstream. Games in this genre typically focus on multiple players all being dropped into a massive area with the goal of hunting each other down until there is only one player left standing. Typically, the map will progressively shrink over the course of the game, forcing the surviving players to come even closer to one another as the game reaches its climax.
Like Fortnite, Warzone will be free to play, and is available for download across multiple platforms, including PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
While the popularity of Fortnite and Apex Legends means that Warzone could have a difficult time becoming as much of a mainstream success immediately, many analysts say that the game has a big advantage, particular as gaming livestreams on platforms like Twitch and Mixer become more popular then ever before. And that big advantage is the fact that it's part of a well-established video game franchise.
"What Call of Duty: Warzone brings to the table is a triple threat since it's tied to a very popular franchise," said Doron Nir, chief executive of livestreaming services provider StreamElements, according to the BBC. "There hasn't been a big new battle royale game in a while, and it's free-to-play."
The shift to a free-to-play model seems like a good decision for Activision, as many analysts say it's the direction the industry is headed in, with many pointing to the success of Fortnite as evidence of that.
This could serve to make the game more accessible, building off the appeal the Call of Duty name already has to the market its most popular in: older gamers. According to analyst Will Hershey, chief executive of Round Hill Investments, PUBG and Apex Legends are the game's biggest competition due to sharing a similar market. By comparison, Fortnite, which lacks any gore and has an overall more child-friendly aesthetic, is more popular with younger and more casual gamers, the BBC reported.
Of course, as most gamers know, being free-to-play is not the same as unprofitable, with Activision most likely expecting big financial returns due to available in-game purchases.
"Most game companies wouldn't invest in a game of this scope if profit wasn't a key driver," Nir said, the BBC reported.
For comparison, in its first 10 months after its July 2017 release, Fortnite reportedly earned $1.2 billion with an audience of 125 million players. In 2018 alone, it reportedly had a revenue of at least $2.4 billion. A huge portion of its revenue comes from in-game purchases.
However, another big point in the game's favor is the crossplay and unified progression with the recently released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
"For players that already own the full version of Modern Warfare, all content already earned including Battle Pass items, Operators, weapons and customization items will carry over to Warzone, and all progression earned in Warzone will counts toward overall Modern Warfare progression," Activision explained on their website.
"For players who do not own the full version of Modern Warfare, all progress and items they’ve earned in Warzone will be rewarded across Multiplayer and Special Ops in Modern Warfare, should they ever choose to purchase it."
The third big advantage the game has is timing, as its release coincides with the ongoing coronavirus outbreak forcing millions of people around the world to stay home.
This is especially the case for those who are forced to stay in home-quarantine for 14 days. According to the BBC, gaming livestream viewership skyrocketted in China during February as much of the country was forced into quarantine and lockdown as the spread of the virus worsened.
"Any kind of stay at home entertainment company has a potential to benefit from this," Hershey told the BBC.
Warzone has two game modes: Battle Royale and Plunder, the latter of which is a mode where the goal is to collect the most cash through a variety of means. The former is essentially a typical Battle Royale game. Both modes see a group of players arrive in the city of Verdansk, a massive map with over 300 points of interests and a variety of weapons and vehicles available. Each game will have up to 150 players at the same time. For comparison, Fortnite only has 100 players per game, while Apex Legends has only 60.
While this is the franchise's first standalone Battle Royale game, it isn't its first foray into the franchise. That honor goes to the Battle Royale mode of 2018's Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, which had a price-tag of $60.