Over the last two weeks we’ve seen the official announcements for the next installments in both the Call of Duty and Battlefield games series. Together, these two franchises represent two of the largest brands in the first-person shooter genre of video games. For me what was most interesting at the time when the trailers came out was not the games themselves, of which we currently know little, but the choice of trajectory for each game’s setting. Whereas Call of Duty is rocketing forward in to the distant future, Battlefield is turning back the clock and setting its game during World War 1. For those that haven’t seen them yet, I have embedded the reveal trailers of both games below for your reference.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare reveal trailer
Battlefield 1 reveal trailer
After watching these two trailers, I briefly got caught up in the usual hype and short memory that the internet is known for and I was thinking to myself that these trailers represented a major moment where the two rival series were splitting from one another in terms of setting. However, I came to my senses and then remembered that this is actually not the first time this has happened between Call of Duty and Battlefield. To illustrate this, I’ve written a heavily condensed history of the two games. For the sake of brevity, I have omitted most of the lesser titles from each series and focused primarily on the mainline entries.
Both Call of Duty and Battlefield started out as first-person shooter games set in World War 2. The first Call of Duty and Battlefield games came out in 2003 and 2002, respectively, back when World War 2 games were still fresh and popular. Call of Duty stayed in World War 2 for several years, but Battlefield left World War 2 behind in 2004 with the release of Battlefield Vietnam, and in 2005 moved into the modern era with Battlefield 2. The year 2006 saw Battlefield jump into the distant future with Battlefield 2142, and meanwhile Call of Duty was still in the World War 2 era with Call of Duty 3. A seismic shift in the Call of Duty series, and first-person shooters in general, occurred in 2007, however, with the release of the massively popular Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It’s release was one of the last nails in the coffin of World War 2 games as a dominant force in first-person shooters, and there would be only one more Call of Duty game set in World War 2 – Call of Duty: World at War, which came out in 2008. Meanwhile, Battlefield ditched the distant future to return to the modern era in 2008 with Battlefield: Bad Company. Except for the purely online multiplayer Battlefield 1943 and the Vietnam expansion pack for Bad Company 2, the Battlefield games would hold to the modern era from 2008 all the way until our current year. During that time, there was an interesting reversal, whereby Call of Duty games were the ones jumping around time periods while Battlefield held steady. This was primarily a product of having multiple development studios working on the series, which meant each studio could take the games in a different direction and it also allowed for a new mainline Call of Duty to come out each year. After World at War laid World War 2 to rest, Call of Duty came back to the modern era with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009, but then took a trip into the Cold War with Black Ops the next year. 2011’s Modern Warfare 3 was followed by the Cold War and near-future Black Ops 2, and in 2013 Call of Duty took the alternate history approach with Ghosts. This was followed in 2014 and 2015 by Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3, respectively; both of which were set in the mid to late 21st century.
Now we’re in 2016, and Battlefield and Call of Duty are changing settings, as they’ve done many times in the past. I suppose the main difference now is that both series are simultaneously moving in different directions, rather than one changing while the other kept to its current setting. Personally, I think the level of hype surrounding these announcements is disproportionate to how big of a story this divergence actually is, but game announcements are normally exciting, so I suppose I can somewhat understand why some people talk about this like it’s a big deal.
As a side note at the end here, I am forced to acknowledge that the announcement of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare likely crushes my hopes of ever getting Call of Duty: Ghosts 2. [Dramatic scream] Nooooooooo!