Call of Duty is one of the most famous franchises in the gaming industry. It has spawned numerous games, set in numerous locations, with a myriad of gameplay mechanics.
In fact, it is among the most famous games of all time. Even people who are not gamers would be familiar with the franchise. Some might even be able to correctly identify it as a military-themed shooter game.
The franchise for years had restricted itself to console and PC platforms. The games were huge hits there and gained a lot of traction. It sold copies in the millions.
Now, even mobile gamers can rejoice as Call of Duty: Mobile not only exists but is among the best shooter and battle royale games on mobile. Its influence even stands close to mobile shooter games like Fortnite and PUBG, which dominate the gaming industry.
So how did the game reach the current pinnacle that it inhabits? How does it make money?
Let’s have a closer look.
As mentioned, Call of Duty is among the most famous gaming franchises in the world. The first game in the series was released back in 2003. Since then, the series has witnessed the release of a plethora of games in the series.
In fact, as of 2023, there have been 22 games. That means more than one game each year since the first one in the series was released.
And the sales also reflect the same. Call of Duty franchise collectively has amassed a total number of sales of 400 million copies. If you distribute it evenly, this means an average of around 19 million copies for each game.
The development of Call of Duty: Mobile started a few years back. Activision, the company behind the game had been trying to bring the franchise into mobile for quite a few years. But they never were able to crack it.
In 2017, they acquired King, the developers behind the acclaimed game Candy Crush. Candy Crush at the time was among the highest revenue-generating games in the industry.
Activision tasked King with creating a Call of Duty game for the mobile audience. The project however was dropped after a while. The reasons remain unclear.
Then, both PUBG and Fortnite became popular in 2018. Perhaps sensing that shooter games have potential in the mobile gaming market, Activision tried to develop CoD again for mobile.
For this, they partnered up with Tencent. Tencent at the time had a minority stake within Activision as well. So, TiMi Studio Group, a subsidiary game development studio under Tencent was assigned the project to develop the game.
TiMi Studio Group at the time had a lot of goodwill. Primarily because of their successful release of games such as Honor of Kings.
After months of development, the game was launched on iOS and Android on October 1st, 2018.
Upon this release, it became one of the fastest-growing mobile games during the initial launch phase. It edged out all the competition, including some classic mobile games, to reach the second most successful mobile game launch, coming behind only Pokemon Go. For this, the game amassed 148 million downloads.
The game also won a lot of awards during its launch year. This included the Best Game of the Year from Google Play, the Best Mobile Game of the Year at the 2019 Game Awards, and Best Mobile Game at the 2020 British Academy Game Awards.
All these figures do not matter if the game does not make any revenue. So, you might be wondering, how much money does Call of Duty make?
There are some figures that illustrate this. In the year of its release, the game made $500 million in revenue. In 2020, the figure stood at $300 million, in 2021 at $390 million, and in 2022, at $310 million.
In terms of lifetime revenue, which is an indicator of how much money Call of Duty has made over the lifetime since its release, the game reached $1.5 billion. In 2023, this figure climbed all the way to $3 billion.
All this revenue that Call of Duty makes wouldn’t have been possible if not for a large and stable user base. The user base is in fact among the biggest on mobile. As of 2023, the game was reported to have 356 million monthly active users.
So, now that we have had a look at the statistics of the game, let’s now turn our attention to how Call of Duty makes money in the first place.
Before we get into the detailed specifics, let me first explain about the in-game currency.
The in-game currency in Call of Duty is called Credits. Any purchase you make within the game is made using Credits. To use Credits, you have to either earn them through gameplay or you can purchase them using real money from the in-game store.
Now, a lot of you might be wondering, couldn’t the game just let us buy the items with real money directly?
That is where the genius of Call of Duty’s monetization model lies.
See, a lot of games that use in-app purchases for monetization avoid the practice of delivering purchases to their users directly using real money. Instead, they create a virtual currency that does the same job. The primary reason for this is that players are primed to think that they are spending virtual currency rather than real money when they make purchases.
This subtle alteration in thinking is often enough to leverage it for monetization purposes. It often leads to players making a higher number of purchases. Which again would lead to more in-game currency purchases. Players who purchase items are also likelier to stick for the long term.
Now, let us turn our attention to the major business models that are implemented in Call of Duty: Mobile.
Battle Passes are specific in-game items that are purchased to receive certain benefits in the game.
For instance, the game’s period is split into seasons. Each season might last for a set period, like 30 days or 60 days. The battle pass unlocks a lot of challenges that the player can complete within this period of time. The challenges can range from killing an n number of enemies within a minute or surviving for a certain period of time.
The more the challenges the completed, the more the players receive battle points. The battle points then can be used to make cosmetic purchases inside the game. These cosmetics are often available only during the period of that particular season. Once the period is over, the cosmetics cannot be purchased and the new season brings in new cosmetics.
This creates an artificial scarcity. Players are thus incentivized to purchase skins as soon as they are available before they are lost forever.
Although there is a free battle pass, this restricts the amount of in-game currency or points you receive and also the rewards that you receive. Players that have the paid battle pass have better rewards for them. This further creates a situation where players are primed to make the purchase.
Battle pass also helps bring a sense of progression into multi-player games. Multi-player games are often stuck for choices when it comes to implementing progression. Because the game’s nature revolving around gameplay with others, creates challenges to creating game progression.
But progression is important in games. It provides the players with a sense that they are improving and challenging themselves. A sound progression system empowers the users to feel growth and thus retains them for the long term.
Through the implementation of reward-based challenges, battle passes provide just that sense of growth.
Unlike a lot of games that provide in-game purchases, the business model of Call of Duty is not pay-to-win. Meaning, that you cannot make purchases within the game that help you advance within the game. Such as overpowered weapons that provide you a competitive advantage over most of the players you come across.
This is because it would mean a lot of the players who make purchases would far exceed those who don’t in terms of skill sets and power. The players who pay would gain an unfair advantage that would be sustained for the long term. Thus it would create a scenario that which new players can’t compete with the skilled players. So, a lot of players wouldn’t even give the game a try.
Instead, Call of Duty follows the monetization model that revolves around skins and cosmetics. Under this business model, the player can purchase different items to enhance their look in the game. These include skins for their weapons, skins for their characters, emojis, etc.
A lot of players do buy this because it helps players stand apart from one another.
Games are visual mediums. So having an identity of your own means that you can stand apart from the millions of other players in the game. A unique combo of gun skins, character skins, and emojis might help you do just that.
All these implementations of monetization strategies in Call of Duty would be pointless if not for the genius design choices that the developers behind the game have made. let’s have a look at a few of them:
The shooting mechanics is the core mechanic in the game. You encounter an enemy player, shoot them, and eliminate them, before they can do the same to you.
The implementation of this mechanic varies from game to game. Some games lean on making this mechanic harder because of the very nature of the game. But Call of Duty has decided to do the opposite.
The players of Call of Duty: Mobile would be from a wide demographic. And being on mobile, would likely also mean people who have never played games before. So, how does one pander to such an audience?
By making the core shooting mechanic simple, the game allows even players who don’t have prior exposure to the gameplay of the game. The learning curve in the initial stages is well implemented so that players don’t feel overwhelmed.
At the same time, the mechanics can also be used in complex ways. The game simultaneously panders to experienced players, allowing them to use complex strategies to defeat their opponents.
Call of Duty: Mobile’s business model’s success also owes to the fact that it panders to a range of audiences.
This is done through the implementation of multiple game modes. There is a battle royale mode for instance that lets players compete against one another inside a limited space, prompting them to eliminate each other and become the last one standing.
The same is the mode that is common in games such as Fortnite., PUBG, and Free Fire. It creates an intense thrilling and competitive environment that lasts for a short session.
Another famous mode is the Zombies mode. This is the mode where you as the player are pitted against a horde of zombies. The zombies attack you one by one and you have to survive for the longest time that you can. It incorporates staple themes from both thriller and horror media.
Apart from the game modes, Call of Duty: Mobile also boasts a range of guns. These guns each have their own set of attributes, strengths, and weaknesses. Players can then choose playing style and select the guns that maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
Another crucial element that is a conscious design choice that has helped Call of Duty’s business model is constant content updates.
Like a lot of the highest-grossing games on mobile, Call of Duty continuously gets content updates. Some of these are events that last for a particular period of time. These are sometimes designed around a particular theme like a holiday. Once the time is over, the event ends.
Then there are certain game modes that were added later on in the development. One of these is the zombie mode. This adds a new element to the already great gameplay, hooking certain sections of players for the long term and helping Call of Duty to monetize them.
One update that has made a lot of waves was the Gunsmith feature. This feature allowed players to customize the guns and add enhancements that would improve the experience. It allowed players to customize weapons to their liking and play style.
The feature was previously introduced in the console and PC games of the Call of Duty franchise and achieved a lot of acclaim from the user. Utilizing the same feature for the mobile version of the game proved to be a huge hit among the player base.
There are several locations, items, and characters that repeatedly appear in the Call of Duty franchise of games. These are hence familiar to the fan base.
Call of Duty: Mobile uses some of the locations and characters in the gameplay. For instance, there are specific maps that players of the console and PC games would be familiar with that appear in the mobile game as well.
This is a great way as part of Call of Duty’s business model to engage the core fan base of the franchise. It has paid off really well.
Call of Duty: Mobile is one of the biggest games in the world. It is a shooter game that appeals to a broad user base and core gamers as well.
Call of Duty’s monetization model has proved to be a big hit, delivering the developers millions each month. It is one of the biggest success stories in the realm of mobile gaming and continues its successful run to this day.
We, at Juego Studios, are a top game development studio that has created games across genres. We have a 300+ team that is comprised of leading experts from different game development domains, who collaborate and execute projects of all scopes.
It is hard to round an exact figure. Because it would depend on the specific requirements of each project.
But to give you an estimate, it would be around $250,000 – $300,000.
This is because it requires a lot of infrastructure such as servers and a lot of development time, including artists and programmers. To emulate the same success and make money like Call of Duty does, it would require LiveOps, which would further drive up the cost.