Yesterday, Activision revealed Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War via a live event in their hit battle royale, Warzone. In squads of four, players had to kill five enemies, loot a code from a dead body, find a hidden crate, and collect a blueprint from Woods, the iconic Black Ops hero.
It was more than a simple mission that sent you running around Verdansk, however. It was a presentation; a visual and interactive spectacle that showed off the power Warzone can have.
The screen would shake, mysterious voices shouted around you, and planes flew above as teams scrambled to complete the checklist. It showcases that Warzone can be more than a game. Activision can use it as a marketing tool, engaging players and building hype in a way that few games have or ever could.
In any normal year, Black Ops Cold War would probably have been revealed with a trailer during a Microsoft or Sony press conference around E3. “Here’s what the campaign looks like, here’s a trailer, multiplayer news coming soon” kinda stuff. Nothing overly exciting.
The success of Warzone, which can also be attributed somewhat to 2020 being a less than conventional year, opened up avenues for Activision to change the hype cycle up a little, and yesterday’s Know Your History event is the product of that.
Live events are something that Fortnite has done spectacularly for a couple of years now. Starting small, they’ve been built up to the unbelievable scale of the Travis Scott concert earlier in the year, showing off what’s truly possible in a live service game.
Few other publishers or developers have even attempted something similar but it’s something fans have wanted from Warzone since its launch.
Of course, style, perspective, and tone difference mean Warzone can’t shoot pink lasers into the sky as a 100 foot pop-star struts around, but spectacle is possible in other ways and has been limited so far.
Mysterious bunkers and keycards petered out in Season 3 and the only big map change has been the opening of Stadium at the start of Season 5. Without game-changing moments, Verdansk was getting stale and fans were dropping off. It’s moments like yesterday’s event that create excitement around a game and it was a perfect example of how the various studios working on Call of Duty can take advantage of Warzone going forward.
Drastic map changes and promotional messages can take the form of dramatic live events. Know Your History could have simply been a trailer in the game, but Infinity Ward thankfully made it more than that.
It was thrilling to be involved with something like that. Scrambling around to ‘Wield The Weapon’ in an unknown location in a grid reference, running towards Stadium as fighter jets rush overhead, and fighting it out for control of a key are Warzone moments that will live long in the memory, and they’re simultaneously part of Black Ops Cold War’s marketing campaign.
Creating these moments serves Activision just as it does the players. It gets eyes on not only upcoming games and content, but brings Warzone back into the picture.
The possibilities are endless now that the Black Ops and Modern Warfare worlds are due to collide in the battle royale. New season hype, map changes, and more could all take the form of live events following the success of yesterday’s.
Hopefully it was as successful for Activision as it seemed to be because Warzone needs more of these moments to stay as popular as it is. At the end of the day, they’re what the game needs, what the players want, and can be the perfect marketing tool for Call of Duty as a franchise.