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

Former Raven Software lead designer Michael Gummelt has revealed that the studio was once working on a standalone live-service version of Call of Duty’s popular Zombies mode, but the project was cancelled when the IP originator wanted it back.

Gummelt shared this revelation on his LinkedIn page, where he explained that he led the design of an “ambitious new Call of Duty: Zombies live service project” between 2011 and 2012. However, the entire project was cancelled “when the studio that ‘owned’ that part of the Call of Duty IP wanted it back.”

While Gummelt didn’t explicitly mention the name of the studio, it is likely that he was 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.

Unfortunately, Gummelt’s CV didn’t reveal any more potential inter-studio rivalry. However, he did mention that Raven Software began work on a sequel to one of the studio’s classic IPs in 2019. This resulted in two “highly playable” proof-of-concept prototypes. However, Activision ultimately pulled the plug on the project after Call of Duty: Warzone proved to be a major success and Raven was required to provide support as a long-time support studio for the publisher.

This news is quite devastating considering the studio’s classic fantasy first-person shooters Heretic and Hexen in its back catalogue. Both games would have been excellent candidates for an experimental revival. Unfortunately, neither of these revivals came to fruition once Warzone started generating substantial revenue.

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