Janco Partners' Mike Hickey thinks Sledgehammer Games - and not series creator Infinity Ward - is currently at work on Modern Warfare 3 for publisher Activision.

He said in a research note this afternoon that he expects the game to launch in the financial year ended March 31, 2012.
"We believe Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 will be released in fiscal '11, likely developed by Sledgehammer Games, and could sell in excess of +18 million units," Hickey wrote.

The analyst also thinks an online-only Call of Duty game will launch in China during the same timeframe, and an MMO game from Bungie the following financial year.

It's not inconceivable that Sledgehammer could have taken the reins of the Modern Warfare series from Infinity Ward following the latter's well documented problems this year, when up to 50 per cent of staff were thought to have left the studio.

However, Activision has said that Sledgehammer's at work on a CoD title in the action-adventure genre, leading to speculation that it's a third person spin-off rather than a main FPS series entry. That said, a quick look on the developer's website today showed the following message: "We are currently in production on a Call of Duty FPS game."

In April Hickey predicted the closure of Infinity Ward, although the Call of Duty creator has since been on a rebuilding drive and Activision has said it expects the studio "to rise from the ashes".

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