The publisher wanted to make sure that if anyone was telling Call of Duty fans about Modern Warfare 3, it was Activision.
Thanks to the recent leak, the cat is out of the bag on the next Call of Duty much earlier than Activision originally planned. But Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg says that rather than view the leak as a bad thing, the publisher made the leak its own, and managed to harness a lot of excitement.
Hirshberg said he obviously hadn't wanted for all of Activision's carefully laid plans to get messed up, but he knew that complaining about it wasn't going to make it better. "It would be really easy to just obsess over [the leak]," he said, "And obsess over how it happened, [but] that's only looking backwards. And in the meantime, your launch just started."
He said that no one was immune to leaks - not even the government or military - and that being able to roll with the punches was an important part of marketing in the modern age. Hirshberg said that Activision had tried to look at the leak from a fan's perspective, saying that the fans hadn't done anything wrong. "We woke up with a marketing crisis and wanted to go to bed with a marketing win," Hirshberg explained. "So what we did was we kind of took that exact conversation we were having in our conference room outside and had it publicly in social media ... We reached out to our fans and we said, 'Look, we didn't schedule this. This wasn't something we had planned. But everyone seems excited, so we're just going to roll with it. '"
Activision then released a quartet of teaser videos, which Hirshberg says generated millions of views on YouTube alone in just a few days. By way of comparison, he said that the first teaser clips for Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, which were released according to Activision's schedule, received 61,000 and 89,000 views, respectively. He qualified that by saying that Activision hadn't done anything wrong with the launches of the previous two Call of Duty games, but that it showed how effective seizing the moment could be. "What you're pointing to is the power of response in these moments," he said. "And responding is different than reacting or overreacting, or not reacting. Showing a willingness to be a part of the connected, digital, social universe we live in as a company is very powerful."
"We kept coming back to the fans, to the people who love this game; who are just waiting; for whom that day was just a really cool day," Hirshberg added. "All that interest for us we knew was harnessable in a positive way. The other thing we wanted to do was, if there's gonna be a dialogue about our game, we want it to be between us and our fans and not between the leakers and our fans."
It's pretty obvious that Activision made the right decision following the leak by being flexible and engaging with fans, rather than doggedly sticking to its schedule, no matter what. What's more, moving quickly to capitalize on the buzz surrounding the game has seemingly only served to intensify it, as the numbers would attest. Hopefully, this will also mark the start of a more open Activision, something that others at the publisher have said is important to it shaking off its "evil empire" image.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 comes out for PS3, PC, and Xbox 360 on November 8th.