Just as Blizzard Entertainment has Blizzcon for its game fans, Activision Blizzard is now creating Call of Duty XP 2011, a two-day convention for fans of the Call of Duty games.
The event is a stroke of marketing brilliance for Activision Blizzard, which wants to stoke the video game fans into a frenzy of excitement around upcoming titles such as Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, which debuts Nov. 8. If it works, then fans will be more loyal and won’t have time for rival games such as Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 3. This live event is a way for Activision Blizzard to preserve its leadership in the multibillion-dollar first-person shooter combat game market. It is consistent with the game’s focus on immersing fans deep into the culture of the game, similar to the way Activision’s sister company, Blizzard, does for its fans at the annual Blizzcon event.
The event will take place on a still-secret 12-acre venue in Los Angeles on Sept. 2-3. More than 6,000 fans will be able to attend the event, which will include news revelations about Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer game. Attendees will be the first to get hands-on time with the multiplayer game and the title’s new Spec Ops survival co-op mode. (I played this mode with VentureBeat’s Matthew Lynley at E3 and it’s a lot of fun).
Eric Hirshberg, chief executive of Activision Publishing, a division of Activision Blizzard, said in an interview that the event will fuse real-world Call of Duty action experiences — like a paintball battle in a scene that replicates the “Scrapyard” multiplayer map in the Call of Duty Black Ops game from last year. Activision will also have a $1 million Call of Duty tournament sponsored by Activision and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console business.
“We’re pulling out all of the stops,” Hirshberg said. “You could say it is like Blizzcon, but this is going to be an event like no other.”
Players will have a chance to “speed-run” through the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 map, “The Pit,” in real life. Developers will be on hand for question-and-answer sessions. There will be an on-site Call of Duty armory and museum, and live entertainment.
Attendees will also be the first to see the full functionality of Call of Duty Elite, the new online social network for Call of Duty fans. Players can qualify for the tournament by playing Call of Duty Black Ops multiplayer in regional promotions. The players will then get a chance to compete to be the best Call of Duty player in the world. Fans can also watch the experience through TV and the web.
Tickets will cost $150 and all proceeds of the event will go toward benefiting war veterans through the Call of Duty Endowment, a nonprofit that helps veterans transition to civilian life. Tickets go on sale July 19. Call of Duty Black Ops, which debuted last November, still draws about 30 million fans a month and is the best-selling video game of all time.
Here’s an interview Rob Smith, editor in chief of Machinima.com, did with Hirshberg.