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The Untold Truth Of Call Of Duty

You can't escape from Call of Duty. The first-person shooter is everywhere and is one of the industry's most successful franchises.

Call of Duty kicked off as a World War 2 shooter before branching into more near-future scenarios. The franchise regularly makes headlines for its massive sales and occasionally disturbing depictions of violence. The franchise's publisher, Activision, has released a new game nearly every year since 2003, and each one has sold millions of copies, totaling more than 300 million since 2019. The franchise's 2019 release, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, was its highest selling game with more than 30 million copies sold by the end of 2020.


Call of Duty is probably best known for its fast-paced online multiplayer gameplay and large fanbase that can include everyone from esports competitors to casual players, but its single-player campaign mode is no slouch. Filled with action-movie-like cutscenes and political intrigue, Call of Duty's missions are filled with pseudo-realistic events that keep bringing fans back for more. Even so, there are a lot of things that even the biggest fans might not know about the franchise.

Call of Duty games are (very loosely) based on historic events

With the exception of Infinite Warfare, the Call of Duty franchise has usually borrowed heavily from real-world historic events.

The franchise's most recent installment in its Modern Warfare series turned heads in 2019 with its depiction of Farah Karim, one of the series' few major female characters, who is loosely based on the Kurdish YPJ, an all-female militia from Syria. But Call of Duty: Modern Warfare took some criticism for historical revisionism in the game's eighth mission, where Farah leads an ambush along the so-called "Highway of Death." 


"The Russians bombed it during the invasion killing the people trying to escape," Farah says in the mission prelude. In reality, the Highway of Death was the site of a 1991 coalition bombing raid in Kuwait that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of fleeing Iraqi soldiers and civilians. Eurogamer headline criticized Modern Warfare of "'rewriting history' to blame Russia for controversial U.S. attacks." 

But there are even more examplesThe Verge accused the franchise for whitewashing war crimes in the recent Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold Warwhile The Progressive described the entire franchise as "pro-war propaganda."

There was supposed to be a third-person Vietnam game

Call of Duty fans got the Vietnam experience with a couple missions in the first Black Ops and in the new Cold War. However, developers were at one point working on another game that took place solely in South Asia during the Vietnam War. This third-person game never came to fruition for a number of reasons, mostly due to staffing issues at Activision's subsidiary studios.


According to YouTuber Rocket Sloth, the game development began as early as 2009, when Activision added a third studio to its ranks, Sledgehammer Games, led by the same developers who worked on the original Dead Space. After a legal battle and the departure of Activision's Infinity Ward studio heads, the publisher had to pull the Sledgehammer team from the Vietnam project to finish Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Sledgehammer CEO Glen Schofield continued to express interest in a third-person Call of Duty game as late as 2011, but the idea was pretty much dead by 2014, according to interviews with Game Informer. This wasn't the only cancelled Call of Duty game, though. Activision also considered ancient Rome for a possible setting, Games Radar reported back in 2016. 


Warzone is now more popular than Fortnite

Less than a year after its March 10, 2020, release, the free-to-play battle-royale Call of Duty: Warzone appears to have surpassed Fortnite in popularity. An October 2020 survey of nearly 10,000 teenagers "found that interest in Fortnite has fallen slightly, while Call of Duty has skyrocketed," according to Yahoo News. Activision announced that Call of Duty: Warzone surpassed 50 million players just one month after its release. According to a December 2020 press release, the game was estimated to have about 85 million players.


It's not entirely clear why Warzone has quickly become so much more popular than other battle royale games like Fortnite or PUBG. But it does have a few things going for it. For starters, the game has the Call of Duty brand behind it, which gamers can trust, Yahoo points out. The title also introduced battle-royale players to redemption rounds in "the gulag," which allows players a second chance at victory. Lastly, Warzone was first released at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, right when more players were beginning to stay indoors.

Call of Duty has an endowment that serves veterans

The franchise that rakes in so many millions of dollars is also using some of that capital to help veterans get back on their feet in the real world. Activision Blizzard launched the Call of Duty Endowment in 2009 to help U.S. veterans find jobs. The endowment expanded to include veterans of the United Kingdom's armed forces in 2017. Initially, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick planned to build a performing arts center on the grounds of the Veterans Affairs in West L.A., but later decided to focus on creating something that was more practical: Jobs.


"We scour the landscape of over 40,000 veterans organizations to find those that are absolutely the best," endowment director Dan Goldberg says. "And we find them, we fund them, and we help them grow."

So far, the Call of Duty Endowment estimates it has helped place more than 77,000 transitioning veterans into new jobs, with a 2024 goal of 100,000. Activision Blizzard has donated more than $38 million to the endowment, according to its most recent figures.