(Bloomberg) -- Activision Blizzard Inc.’s Call of Duty installment this year will be a continuation of 2022’s Modern Warfare II, a surprising twist in the lucrative video game franchise that for decades has released a completely new game every fall. 

Activision’s goal is for the new Call of Duty to feel like a standalone, full-price release and also an extension of Modern Warfare II, said people familiar with the project. The current plan is for the game to carry over maps and modes from last year’s shooter, the people said, although they cautioned that plans may change again between now and the release this fall.

Activision has made several changes to the blockbuster’s schedule after the 2021 entry in the series failed to meet expectations, leading some executives to believe that they were introducing new versions too rapidly. 

Call of Duty, which has generated more than $31 billion in revenue, is developed by a stable of Activision-owned game studios including Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games. Typically, one of those three takes the lead on a new Call of Duty game, rotating every few years. Infinity Ward is responsible for the Modern Warfare sub-series, set in the present day, while Treyarch develops Black Ops, based on historical events such as the Cold War. Sledgehammer has helmed several one-offs, such as the futuristic Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

But in early 2022 the company decided to delay the next big Treyarch game, pushing its release from 2023 to 2024 and marking the first time in nearly two decades the franchise would be without a new mainline game, Bloomberg reported. Activision then told Sledgehammer that it would develop a “premium expansion” for Modern Warfare II  to help fill the gap, according to the people. Modern Warfare II, which was released in October, became the best-selling video game of 2022. 

The expansion was planned to be big, with a single-player campaign and several multiplayer maps, and eventually it morphed into a full game release. Sledgehammer’s new Modern Warfare game — the name is still unclear but will probably not be Modern Warfare III —  is now slated for this fall, the people said, declining to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press. Activision spokesperson Neil Wood noted the company has announced that a “premium Call of Duty game” will arrive this year and that they had “nothing new to share.”

Some current and former employees of Sledgehammer Games are worried about the schedule, which has given the company less than two years to develop the game. A similar schedule for the studio’s previous game, 2021’s Call of Duty Vanguard, led to a difficult period of overtime for some staff. That game didn’t perform as well as Activision had anticipated and received generally negative reviews. This time around, some developers say they’re more optimistic because they are receiving more support from other Activision studios, including Treyarch and Infinity Ward, whose leadership is also supervising the new game.

At one point, Activision executives were briefing staff on a brand new vision for Call of Duty in which the series would switch between Modern Warfare and Black Ops games, each receiving two years of support. But any long-term plans at Activision remain hazy and tentative as the company waits to finalize its acquisition by Microsoft Corp. The $69 billion deal is pending regulatory approval.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.