EA's relentless hunt for the Call of Duty throne has driven awareness for the mammoth military shooter, says Activision Publishing boss Eric Hirshberg.
Call of Duty is king of the shooter world, and Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg (and associates) have a vested interest in keeping it that way. Of course, Hirshberg is under no illusions that others want to take the crown - but thinks that EA's undisguised challenges may ultimately help COD, too. "I think EA might talk about our games in the press more than we do," he joked in an interview with MCV UK. "So, the first thing I say to them is 'Thanks for the assistance in building awareness.'"
That said, Hirshberg said that Activision was acutely aware of the competition that Call of Duty felt every year, and that it wasn't easy to maintain its lead. "Last year we had Halo: Reach and Medal of Honor, and it's not like they weren't amazing developers gunning for the top of this mountain either. And it's the same this year - Gears of War is back along with lots of other games."
The goal, he said, was to focus on the end result, rather than what competitors were doing. By making the best game that the developers could, Hirshberg said, Activision hoped that COD would maintain its lead in the face of stiff competition.
Hirshberg also discussed the recently-announced Call of Duty Elite, describing it as a service that "supercharges the multiplayer experience." He said that the average Black Ops player spends 58 minutes a day playing the game - as opposed to the average Facebook user, who spends 55 minutes a day on the site - and while that number was hugely encouraging, he said it was also frustrating to have a "passionate social community" without any ways to "unlock it" or make players closer.
"Elite lets you choose which players to play with, or choose people on a similar skill level, or [Manchester United] fans, or join a group or squad based on a passion ... Suddenly, players have the chance to curate their experience. We're even making a suite of linear video content for fans - much in way ESPN would do that for their audience."
Activision has said that parts of COD Elite will be monetized, but Hirshberg said that a "big chunk" of the service will be completely free - and that Activision hadn't decided what it wanted to charge for yet. "We have to protect the momentum we have," he explained. "Elite is a tremendous investment that further connects the fanbase to the game. We want to give something back that makes the experience for them better.
"That said if we have succeeded in creating a big enough service which people then wish to pay to access more of, then great."
The full interview with Activision's Eric Hirshberg is over at MCV UK, and it's a really interesting read for COD fans (or COD anti-fans - you know the type). I have to say, though, that Eric Hirshberg comes off exponentially more personable, likable and passionate about videogames than his boss Bobby Kotick. Why can't Activision just use him for all its interview needs instead?