Two years of Warzone: How it became Call of Duty’s most influential game ever

warzone cold war operator with smoke backgroundActivision

Call of Duty battle royale Warzone released on March 10, 2020, and changed the direction of CoD and gaming as a whole. Here’s how, in two years, Warzone became the most influential game the franchise has ever seen.

Warzone was first announced on March 9, 2020, just one day before the game officially dropped.

While rumors had run rampant for some time, the Infinity Ward battle royale title arrived on March 10 and was a near-instant hit. Learning from previous CoD BR title Blackout, as well as other competitors such as Apex Legends and Fortnite, Warzone had everything it needed to absolutely fly; and fly it did.

Through the good, the bad, and the ugly, Warzone became far more than just a popular battle royale. It transcended the platforms it was played on, provided sanctuary to a generation trapped indoors by a global pandemic, and made every game developer the world over reconsider their work.

Die Hard Nakatomi Plaza WarzoneActivision
Verdansk became a truly iconic map in the battle royale genre.

Warzone seemed to capture lightning in a bottle at a time when Call of Duty really needed rejuvenating. Throughout the jetpack and post-jetpack years, public sentiment towards the CoD games had slowly started to waiver, and players had naturally flitted towards other games such as Fortnite.

When Warzone dropped, though, that changed completely. The entire western world seemed to gravitate towards it, and it became an instant hit.

Warzone content takes over

Perhaps a huge part in the cultural shift, we saw content creators from all different games head over to try out Warzone when it first came out, and most of them loved it almost instantly.

Streamers such as NICKMERCS, TimTheTatman, xQc and Shroud all tried their hand at the game, and many stuck around for months if not years, with Warzone becoming the biggest game on Twitch.

Not only did big names flock to it, but it helped elevate many creators, too. The likes of JoeWo, the Baka Bros, Swagg, Tommey, and more all saw their personal brands fly through tournaments, streaming, and the general buzz around the game.

While it may not have reached the same dizzying heights as Fortnite a few years prior, Warzone birthed a number of careers.

Changing battle royale forever

Warzone sitting in plane over VerdanskActivision
Warzone instantly flew to the top of the Twitch charts.

No matter how you look at it, Warzone changed the battle royale genre, even inspiring the popular BRs that came before it.

While the top battle royale titles all seem to borrow features from one another, Warzone broke the mold by introducing certain features that hadn’t been seen before.

Contracts are vital to how Warzone plays out, be it a Bounty or a Supply Run, and can make or break a match. Before long, Fortnite imitated and brought in their own Contracts.

The Gulag is a feature that almost seemed anti-battle royale in its creation but turned out to be one of the defining things in Warzone that helped eliminate the boring parts of BR gameplay. It felt like you were always in the action, something that both Apex and Fortnite are missing with their Reboot Vans and Respawn Beacons.

Most influential CoD game ever?

Warzone changed the trajectory of Call of Duty completely, there’s no denying it, and has impacted competitors as well as the franchise in general.

Obviously, some CoD games were more influential than others. Call of Duty 4 completely redefined the FPS genre, with the general game design, killstreaks, gunplay, and more impacting how developers treated FPS games forevermore.

cod 4 modern warfare cover artActivision
Call of Duty 4 is commonly cited as one of the most influential games in FPS history.

Warzone, though, offered something entirely different. A genuinely revolutionary battle royale — for better or for worse — that reinjected life into what many were calling a dying video game franchise, despite the fact it continued to be a number one seller every year.

Players who had long since left CoD came back in their droves, and as such, we’ve seen Vanguard — and no doubt future CoD titles — imitate Warzone with the gunsmith, fast TTK, and general gunplay.

It’s a big claim to make, but Warzone may have just influenced the future of Call of Duty more than any other CoD has done before it.

Thanks to Warzone’s success, we’re seeing a CoD game be delayed for the first time ever, as Treyarch look to make their 2023 (now 2024 title) as polished as possible. It even meant that the financial underperformance of Vanguard wasn’t quite as damaging to Activision as it could have been.

Warzone might not have the pull it did throughout 2020 and 2021. Verdansk was a heaven of sorts for much of the community, with reception to Caldera not being quite as hot.

But it’s impossibly to deny that in two years, Warzone has altered the course of Call of Duty, and perhaps the entire battle royale genre, for years.

The question is how they make that continue — especially with sequel Warzone 2 on the horizon.

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