Like other game companies, employees at Activision’s various studios have been forced to work remotely over the past several weeks by the COVID-19 outbreak. During a post-earnings financial call today, company executives said that the transition has been challenging, but major releases including the next Call of Duty game and World of Warcraft: Shadowlands remain on track to come out this year.
“Although the shift to remote working does add complexity and challenges in some areas of the game development process, including creative collaboration, motion capture, voiceover work, localization, and quality assurance, we are implementing mitigation measures to address each of these areas,” chief operation officer Daniel Alegre said.
“Importantly, based on the work to date, we still expect to deliver a robust slate of content over the remainder of the year. This includes the next premium release of Call of Duty, two titles based on library IP from Activision, the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands expansion, regional testing for new mobile titles, and ongoing live operations across our key franchises.”
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack got slightly more specific about the Shadowlands release target, which is coming a little bit later than we thought. Since most previous WoW expansions have arrived in July or August, we expected it to show up in the summer as well, but Brack said in the call that it will be out closer to the end of the year.
“Our teams have done a really good job in shifting to work from home,” he said. “We were able to welcome select players into the closed alpha for Shadowlands last month, and thanks to the hard work of the team, Shadowlands is on track to launch for Q4 of this year.”
Interestingly, while Activision seems firmly committed to Call of Duty and Shadowlands, there was no mention at all of two other big games we’re looking forward to: Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4. Either of them could be one of the two “library IP” games Alegre referenced, but that would be a tremendous undersell—I can’t imagine Blizzard would pass on the opportunity to mention them by name if it was in a position to do so.
The far greater likelihood is that they’re simply not in the picture for 2020. We know that Diablo 4 is still very distant—director Luis Barriga said during BlizzCon 2019 (which believe it or not was just six months ago) that it’s “not coming out soon. Not even ‘Blizzard soon'”—but there was some hope that Overwatch 2 could be closer: In January, an errant tweet from PlayStation Brazil indicated that it would be out sometime this year.