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“Ambitious” Call of Duty: Zombies live-service game was once briefly in the works at Raven Software

Raven Software was at one time working on a standalone live-service version of Call of Duty’s popular Zombies mode, ex-Raven Software lead designer Michael Gummelt has revealed, but it was cancelled after its IP originator – presumably Treyarch – “wanted it back”.

That small revelation comes via Gummelt’s LinkedIn page (as spotted by MP1ST), which explains he was lead designer on an “ambitious new Call of Duty: Zombies live service project” between 2011 and 2012, but that the whole thing was canceled “when the [Activision] studio that ‘owned’ that part of the Call of Duty IP wanted it back.”

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Gummelt doesn’t explicitly state the name of the studio, but it seems reasonable to assume he’s referring to developer Treyarch, who created the mode for 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War.

The Zombies legacy continues in last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Alas, there’s no more juicy gossip of potential inter-studio rivalry to be found in Gummelt’s CV, but he does mention Raven also began work on a sequel to a one of the studio’s classic IP in 2019 – resulting in two “highly playable” proof-of-concept prototypes – but that Activision ultimately pulled the plug on the project after Call of Duty: Warzone proved to be a smash hit and Raven, a long-time support studio for the publisher, was required to support.

This bit of news, frankly, is far more devastating than Raven’s canned Zombies game, given the studio counts classic fantasy first-person shooters Heretic and Hexen in its back catalogue – both of which would be excellent candidates for an experimental revival. But, alas, neither was to be once Warzone started generating the big bucks – a big shame given the ongoing boomer-shooter revival.

These days Gummelt is an “experience director” working on a triple-A title at Zenimax Online Studios, but it’s still intriguing to get a glimpse into what might have been for Raven Software if the Call of Duty juggernaut wasn’t quite as all-consuming over at Activision.

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