Lately, it seems EA and DICE have been dominating the gaming market with all of their Battlefield 3 advertising. To put it simply, EA has been wh*ring the hell out of Battlefield 3 from the "Above and Beyond the Call" tagline (and shot at Modern Warfare 3) to the Jay-Z "99 Problems" trailer. Now I'm not bashing their advertising strategy. After all, if EA is going to compete with a franchise coming off of record sales surpassing $360 million on launch, and a series with over 30 million followers, they better go big. EA and DICE are taking the "go big or go home" approach with Battlefield 3.
In the meantime, it appears Activision has taken a more reserved approach towards their advertising of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Some might think they've gotten a little complacent with their franchise. After all, Black Ops took in $650 million in its first five days of sales and $1 billion in less than a month, shattering entertainment sales records. In addition Black Ops generated millions more in online sales via DLC. It's easy to understand how Activision might have gotten complacent. The saying goes, "Build it and they will come." This could be the Call of Duty approach. Make the game and the 30+ millions fans will come.
Granted, last year Activision didn't have competition as threatening as Battlefield 3. But despite all of the advertising dollars spent by EA, analysts predict that Modern Warfare 3 will still outsell Battlefield 3. "These two games are going to dominate the fall," said Jeremy Miller, analyst at DFC Intelligence.
Still, nothing is guaranteed. And that is the approach Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg is taking when he gears up for what he calls "the biggest media launch in history." While the final ad plans leading up to Modern Warfare 3's launch haven't officially been revealed, Hirshberg is planning an aggressive marketing plan that includes partnerships with big-named brands such as Jeep and Doritos, traditional media advertising, and doubling down on public relations, social media, and events.
Just last month, Activision held a Call of Duty XP event in Los Angeles. In what was referred to as an experiential marketing campaign, the two-day live event was dedicated to all things Call of Duty, but specifically aimed at creating hype for Modern Warfare 3. Fans, players, and celebrities all gathered together to celebrate Modern Warfare 3. The event included hands-on time with the game, action-packed videos, and live performances by big-named stars.
"It was an experiment to see if we could take experiential marketing and turn it into a mass media. Can we take an 8,500 person event and turn it into a global event? I think we accomplished that beyond our most optimistic expectations," Hirshberg said. Judging by the three million views via Livestream, and a homepage spike of more than 6,000%, including a pre-order page visit jump of 675%, I think the marketing strategy was quite successful.
Activision is relying more on social networking than ever before. While Black Ops alone has more than 10 million Facebook fans, Modern Warfare 3 already has more than 1 million. In addition, Modern Warfare 3 is adding more social networking with the debut of Call of Duty Elite, an online networking aimed at enhancing the multiplayer experience by offering gamers early content access, monthly content drops, expert strategies, and exclusive TV. Players can also create character profiles, customizable loadouts, HD videos, and track their stats.
"Call of Duty Elite is a huge new way to port the game to phone, tablet, Facebook, or laptop," said Jeremy Miller. "It will make viral marketing of the game an even easier play with people sharing and posting and basically fans marketing the game for them."
So you see EA, just because Activision isn't spending the big advertising dollars, doesn't mean they aren't advertising. While you are selling your game through Jay-Z, Activision is selling their game through word of mouth. No messy taglines, no verbal shots fired at EA or DICE.
While they will still spend a considerable amount on advertising, I think we are beginning to see a new approach towards advertising. Why spend millions when you can create a successful product and have the fans market it for you? Fan hype seems to be the direction Activision is going with Modern Warfare 3. As Activision is proving, you don't need to spend millions anymore to have the "biggest media launch in history".