Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, the first of what will certainly be many upcoming next-gen Call of Duty games, has recently given the world a quick look at its multiplayer gameplay. For the most part, there doesn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary with Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War's multiplayer, at least as far as the core gameplay mechanics are concerned.
There's some minute changes, but average time to kill is still below half a second, killstreaks exist, and everyone's running around like a maniac. The maps do appear to be slightly larger and more visually appealing than before, but this is to be expected with the transition to next-gen hardware. Realistically speaking, aside from some new game modes and weapons, you really shouldn't expect any fundamental changes to be introduced with Cold War.
However, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War does have one rather interesting, and daresay unique, feature that will help it stand out from the rest of the Call of Duty pack. Unlike many of its predecessors where the newest yearly installment basically renders the previous games obsolete, Cold War will support Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's Warzone mode.
Anything that you have unlocked in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will carry over into the Cold War era of Warzone rather than being completely replaced by Cold War stuff. Some of Cold War's weapons will also be "interweaved" into Warzone. How this works in practice is anyone's guess though. After all, Warzone was built on Modern Warfare's mechanics. Even the slightest change in time to kill could result in some guns being broken, unless Treyarch wants to take the time to meticulously re-balance every single one of Cold War's guns specifically for Warzone.
In any case, this does mean that Cold War will have cross-generation and cross-platform support, as well as cross progression. What this will look like in practice is that you can have a party full of people who are playing on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, and PS5 all at the same time. Alternatively, you can play on any of the aforementioned platforms and jump from platform to platform with no loss in progress. You can also earn Cold War unlocks by playing Warzone, theoretically letting you level two Battle Passes at the same time.
Assuming that everything works as stated, this would make Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War one of the most mechanically fascinating next-gen titles so far. Cross-generation and cross-platform support is nothing new, but bundling it all with a new game that is using a (presumably) slightly different engine made by a different developer? Virtually unheard of until now.
Of course, the most cynical way to interpret this news is that Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War's content will just be converted to skins for existing Warzone guns. It would certainly be the easiest way to approach the issue. It's not like Cold War's versions of the AK-47 or MP5 or M1911 are going to be so aesthetically different from Modern Warfare's versions that you can't port them from one game to another. Frankly, most people will slap some gaudy camo on the gun anyways, so any difference between the two weapon models will more than likely be covered up. This possibility is, needless to say, far less exciting than getting actual, functional content.
The implications go beyond some new guns though. Franchises with annual releases don't keep supporting older games like this, or at all, once the newest title comes out. It is thus entirely plausible that Warzone specifically is making Activision so much money that it may as well be a separate title. The second, vastly more pessimistic conclusion is that Activision doesn't have a ton of faith in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War's long-term prospects, or at least not enough to the point where they feel like they can dump Warzone and replace it with something else. The truth may be somewhere in between—Cold War is going to be a fine Call of Duty product but it is designed to fail after a year, whereas Warzone may very well keep going until the battle royale genre fizzles out.
That being said, if you put all speculation aside and focus on the cross-everything support of Warzone and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, you're looking at the future of next-gen gaming. PC or console, it's not going to matter what your platform of choice is; everyone gets to play together. If you want to change from one platform to another, your progress is tied to a separate account. And if everything works as stated, Warzone will be a fine example of an inter-generation game. Being able to earn unlocks in a completely different game, especially the Battle Pass, and tying together some of the content from new games is the real "innovative" part. This might very well be the signal that we are entering an era where preserving, or at least respecting, player progression across applicable games is going to be a feature, (ironically) spurred by the rise of microtransactions.