With Call of Duty: Mobile, Activision-Blizzard wasn't just looking to squeeze their most bombastic shooter franchise onto smaller screens, they were looking to prove that they could deliver the same kind of polished and addictive experience fans of the series know and love in a portable form-factor.
Six months on from launch, the final product doesn't appear to have drifted too far from these lofty ambitions. To date, Activision say Call of Duty: Mobile has attracted over 1 million Australian players.
Asked how Australia compares to other regions in terms of the audience for Call of Duty: Mobile, Activision's VP of Mobile, Chris Plummer, doesn't disclose any numbers but he does note that "Australians have been huge supporters of Call of Duty: Mobile since they were part of our early beta program."
With the recent launch of Call of Duty: Warzone on my mind, I asked whether there was much in the way of collaboration between the two halves of the franchises' recent pivot towards a free-to-play business.
"The Call of Duty console and PC development studios have been great partners in supporting Call of Duty: Mobile as we have been delivering great maps, weapons, characters and gear from the Call of Duty universe. Warzone was in development prior to the launch of Call of Duty: Mobile and although we do share learnings across the franchise, the experiences of both titles have been tailored for their respective platforms. I think the results have been really exciting all around," Plummer says.
"We’re really proud about how the game turned out, and especially the way that players have responded. Call of Duty, in particular, demands best-in-class treatment and we were committed to this from the beginning on Call of Duty: Mobile. We always place a high standard on our games at Activision, and I’d expect no less on any other future mobile titles."
Plummer tells us that the gradual rollout of the mobile shooter, which entered beta in late-2018 and officially launched in October 2019, will likely inform the way that approach future mobile experiences both in terms of development and as a publisher.
He says "some of our capabilities were in the process of being built up as we were in the pre-launch phases of Call of Duty: Mobile and you really feel that pressure when you’re building teams, capabilities and a huge game service all at the same time."
"We will apply those learnings to future projects."
Another topic I took the chance to ask pick Plummer's brain about was microtransactions. Even at the best of times, they can be a thorny topic. Nevertheless, if you're going to speak to the man at the spearhead of Activision's mobile gaming strategy about anything, it's microtransaction. Specifically, I asked what he thinks an unethical or unacceptably monetized mobile gaming experience looks like.
"With mobile, you see monetisation attitudes differ quite a lot based on genre and other factors. There are also new form of monetisation evolving all the time. Some systems work and some don’t. When we put something out there for sale in a free to play game, we want to earn players’ trust."
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"Trust is super important. As long as we are open, honest and transparent with our audience, then I think players will continue to trust our game and what we are offering."
No matter what part of the Call of Duty formula you're invested in, Activision are trying to offer that with the series' mobile incarnation. At present, Mobile offers both a motley of traditional 5v5 multiplayer modes and a dedicated 20v20 battle royale experience for Warzone fans looking for a fix.
Asked about how the player base splits across these two modes, Plummer says that "without getting into specifics, I can share that we have a healthy mix of players across all modes of play. Some players spend more time in a specific mode and that is one of the reasons we’re happy to provide a wide assortment so players can engage with the game however they prefer."
Series veterans should also expect new maps for the shooter to arrive sooner than they might expect. Thus far, Call of Duty: Mobile has played up the return of fan-favorite maps like Scrapyard. However, the mobile game recently got its first original map in the form of Cage. We ask Plummer what fans should expect from future additions to the map pool.
"First and foremost, we want to continue driving authenticity into the Call of Duty: Mobile experience because that is what the game is built on. That said, we have mixed in some original modes and content since the game launched and will keep doing this as long as players enjoy the original content too."
"It’s always a challenge finding the balance between new items, modes, maps, etc. I think we’ve done a really good job of adding a ton of new content to keep players engaged. Of course, maps are always something players look forward to and we will continue to deliver for them. Call of Duty: Mobile has even more to offer than new maps, including modes, characters, weapons and other content and experiences. Our goal is to continue delivering to players on all of these fronts."
Of course, what Activision giveth, they're free to take away.
Recently, Call of Duty: Mobile's zombie survival mode was removed by the development team behind the game because it "just didn't reach the level of quality that we desire."
Plummer says that "Zombies was a mode that we introduced for a limited time. We have released many modes and events that were live for a limited time and will continue to do so. With Zombies, we gathered a lot of feedback from players, and who knows, maybe we’ll have some new surprises in store in the future.
He insists that rotating modes in and out of active play is "something we’ve been doing in Call of Duty for years. It keeps the game fresh and gives gamers something new to try, while looking forward to other ways to play the game."
Call of Duty: Mobile is available now on both iOS and Android via their respective app stores.