Hot on the heels of the official reveal of the highly anticipated Call of Duty: World War II last month, gaming publisher Activision has announced plans to translate the popular first-person shooter franchise to the big screen – in a cinematic universe set to rival the superhero worlds of Marvel and Warner Bros’ DC.
According to The Guardian, Activision Blizzard Studios’ co-presidents Stacey Sher and Nick van Dyk have been charged with plotting the series’ overall structure, with “multiple scripts” and “extensive research” already being prepared for the franchise. Sher told the publication that rather than being based on one particular entry in the blockbuster series, the films will draw from multiple recent instalments such as Black Ops and Modern Warfare in a multi-layered, interconnected manner, similar to the franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Van Dyk, meanwhile, is reported as saying the franchise will retain the “high-adrenaline”, “high-energy” aspect of the video games, while being more “broad and inclusive” in scope. The pair are also purportedly keen to take the hit franchise to the small screen, with a number of TV series based on the Call of Duty universe also in the pipeline – providing it manages to resonate with audiences at the box office.
Activision certainly has the ambition and potential audience to take their flagship shooter franchise to the next level, but a look at the recent history of cinematic adaptations of popular video game series should prove a cautionary tale to CoD’s potential filmmakers. Assassin’s Creed (2016), based on Ubisoft’s stealth series, was critically panned upon release, and performed mediocrely at the box office, generating $240 million against a budget of $125 million.
Not only that, but the film version of Activision’s very own Warcraft franchise also received poor reviews upon release last year, with only its box office takings of $220 million in China alone saving the movie from being a colossal failure. Of course, it is worth noting that the studio outsourced that project to Legendary Pictures – Call of Duty would represent their first in-house cinematic production. Based on Activision Blizzard Studios’ early success with the Netflix-distributed Skylanders Academy, the appeal of CoD and the ambition and experience of its co-directors – van Dyk is a former Disney executive – the Call of Duty cinematic universe has the potential to be one of the most successful video game crossovers of all time.