Activision released the free-to-play Warzone on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on Tuesday, which met with the kind of reception befitting a game in the high-profile Call of Duty franchise. Almost half a million viewers tuned in on Twitch and watched more than four million hours of Warzone in the first 24 hours, according to streaming analytic site Sullygnome. On Wednesday, Call of Duty's official Twitter account tweeted that 6 million people played Warzone in the first 24 hours after the game's launch.
From Apex Legends to PUBG, many have tried to become the new Fortnite — which remains one of the most profitable games since it debuted in 2017. While interest in Fortnite is in decline, the revenue it generates continues to attract new entries in the battle royale category.
Developer Infinity Ward looks like it created a game that might be able to topple Fortnite. The Warzone team seemingly learned from the mistakes made with 2018's attempt at a Call of Duty battle royale game, Blackout, but success isn't guaranteed. Here are still some important steps it will need to take before becoming king.
Listen to the audience
Developers like Infinity Ward have a tough job balancing what players want while implementing their vision of the game. What's key is how quickly a developer will listen and respond to its players. Some will complain for the sake of complaining, but when there is a real concerted effort by the fanbase to make a change to the game, it's important for developers to be responsive.
Epic Games went through this issue with Fortnite last year when the team added a powerful mech to the game called the Brute. This robot immediately tipped the scales to whoever found it during a match, and fans made it clear they wanted the bot gone by using the hashtag #RemovetheMech. Epic countered by saying the Brute was intended to level the playing field for less-experienced players. The result, however, was a decline in interest in the game.
Reduce cross-play between PC and console players
Cross-play is a feature a few competitive games use that allows players across different platforms to compete with each other. It's a great way to make sure there is little wait for matches. This is important in the case of Warzone, which has 150 people in a match. Other battle royale games typically stick to 100. Where this becomes an issue is the advantages those on the PC have over those playing on a console.
When it comes to FPS games like Call of Duty, a mouse and keyboard are the best input option. A player with a mouse in hand is going to be far more accurate than someone who uses their thumb on a controller. There's also the advantage when it comes to hardware. A beefy PC gaming computer also has an advantage by displaying the game faster than a console, which can lead to a player on an Xbox One or PS4 falling to a PC player without even seeing the attacker.
Keep releasing new content
The battle royale formula is one of the most exciting types of multiplayer matches. It's thrilling, tense and once you win a match, the ensuing euphoria is overwhelming and addicting. Even with that rush of emotions, players still need something extra to keep them coming back. For many, this is where cosmetics and in-game events come into play.
When Apex Legends came out February 2019, it shot up in popularity over Fortnite. It was something fresh and new, which is what players wanted. Then a month went by and nothing. There was no new content to unlock or purchase, or special events. Vince Zampella, CEO of developer Respawn Entertainment, said his team would stick with a seasonal release of content. In comparison, Fortnite changes cosmetics to purchase daily, has a Battle Pass that can take 10 weeks to unlock everything and will do weekly changes to the game's map in preparation for season-ending events. The lack of more regular updates drove the number of Apex Legends players to flounder.
The same thing happened in Fortnite in its last season. It went on for 18 weeks, which was six weeks longer than other seasons. Players need something new to continue to play the same game over and over again.
Put heavy support into pro events
Not everyone who will play Warzone will be ready for a life as a professional gamer. In fact, hardly any of them will. Still, professional tournaments are an important aspect of any multiplayer game. These events don't just lure in a big viewing audience, especially when there's a lot of money at stake, but it creates influencers who will spend hours upon hours playing this one game.
The Fortnite World Cup has been one of the most-watched events on Twitch. Last year's event garnered more than two million viewers who tuned in to watch Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf win the first-place prize of $3 million. Along with millions tuning in, Bugha is now an influencer for the game with his more than one million followers.
Activision already has the Call of Duty League with teams representing cities in US, Canada and Europe, all competing for big money. The team of eUnited won the 2019 championship and took home $800,000. Pushing Warzone tournaments at the same level as Call of Duty League will help sustain the battle royale game's popularity.