Activision announced that Sledgehammer Games, an internal studio founded by former Visceral Games (Dead Space) leadership, will develop the next Call of Duty game, and the publisher confirmed the departure of Infinity Ward founders Vince Zampella and Jason West.
Sledgehammer was formed last year by Glen A. Schofield and Michael Condrey, the executive producer and senior development director of Dead Space. The pair remains at the studio's helm under Activision's new plan.
Sledgehammer's appointment as a steward of the multi-billion-dollar military shooter franchise allows Activision to maintain the series' yearly release schedule. Longtime series co-developer Treyarch will release its own Call of Duty game this year, with Sledgehammer's version slated to follow by 2012.
In an Activision statement, neither game had the Modern Warfare brand attached. The only mention of the Infinity Ward-specific sub-franchise was to clarify that the studio is still working on two map packs for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 due this year.
Call of Duty will now be managed under its own Activision business unit intended to foster "various new brand initiatives." The company says it plans to focus heavily on "high-margin digital online content" and spread the Call of Duty name across multiple genres, in an attempt to reproduce the level of global reach enjoyed by Blizzard's successful franchises such as WarCraft.
That unit will be run by Activision Publishing Asia Pacific head Philip Earl. With the forced departure of Zampella and West, Infinity Ward itself will be temporarily led up by CTO Steve Pearce and production head Steve Ackrich, both of whom hail from Activision Publishing as well.
"2010 will be another important year for the Call of Duty franchise," said Activision Publishing president Mike Griffith in a statement. "In addition to continued catalog sales, new downloadable content from Infinity Ward and a new Call of Duty release, we are excited about the opportunity to bring the franchise to new geographies, genres and players."