Six months after Call of Duty: Vanguard flopped, Activision has worked out why

A soldier in Call of Duty Vanguard carrying a submachine gun
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Call of Duty: Vanguard was not the commercial success that Activision had hoped for, with the publisher now blaming the game’s poor sales on its World War 2 setting.

In its latest annual earnings report, Activision Blizzard said Call of Duty: Vanguard “didn’t meet our expectations” and admits its disappointing commercial performance was “primarily due to [Activision’s] own execution” of the game (thanks, Kotaku).

“The game’s World War II setting didn’t resonate with some of our community,” the report says, “and we didn’t deliver as much innovation in the premium game as we would have liked.”

Activision goes on to say that it’s addressing both of these issues – the poor choice of setting and lack of innovation – in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the next mainline Call of Duty title due to release later this year.

“We are working on the most ambitious plan in Call of Duty history, with over 3,000 people now working on the franchise and a return to the Modern Warfare setting that delivered our most successful Call of Duty title ever,” the report says.

Call of Duty Vanguard Operators

(Image credit: Activision)

Excuses, excuses

Call of Duty: Vanguard certainly wasn’t a roaring success for Activision. Despite being the best-selling game of 2021, its sales were down by 36.1% on 2020’s Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War. Its underperformance has even reportedly encouraged Activision to break with Call of Duty’s annual release cycle, as the publisher pushes Treyarch’s 2023 entry into 2024.

However, for Activision to chalk up Vanguard’s poor sales to its World War 2 setting is a little peculiar. Call of Duty: WW2 flew off the shelves when it launched back in 2017, with Activision even boasting that it sold twice as many copies as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare during launch. Given the sheer volume of video games and other media set in the conflict, it’s a little strange to think players aren’t interested in the setting.

Vanguard’s lack of innovation might be a better explanation. In our Call of Duty: Vanguard review, we said “the campaign mode ultimately falls flat when it comes to both narrative and gameplay”, and thought its multiplayer offered only more of the same.  While its Zombies mode was a nice refresh on what had come before, it only offered one game mode at launch, and couldn’t prop up a tired franchise on its own.

Of course, Vanguard’s launch was also colored by an ongoing investigation into alleged sexual misconduct at Activision Blizzard. Its underperformance did nothing to scare Microsoft, however, which announced its plans to purchase Activision Blizzard for $69 billion earlier this year.

Callum Bains
Gaming News Writer

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games.