Many in the gaming industry may not have expected it, but it looks like Activision is suffering from more leaks than the PlayStation Network. Last week, gameplay and story details concerning Modern Warfare 3 were leaked, causing Activision to fast-track their marketing, and announce the game sooner than they had hoped. Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg sent an email out to all the company’s employees to explain some of the details that took place internally following the leaks. Luckily – and in a twist too good to be true – that e-mail has also been leaked.
It might not seem like a terrible thing to have details on one of the most expected games in history leak a bit ahead of schedule, but in the internal e-mail from Hirshberg to employees obtained by GiantBomb, it’s made clear that leaks are not taken lightly.
But due to some quick decision-making, the company was able to use the leak to its advantage, and start the marketing for Modern Warfare 3 off on a stronger note than any previous game. Plot points and multiplayer details are all well and good, but there’s nothing like the official marketing when it comes to as high-profile a series as Call of Duty.
After the insider information was communicated to Kotaku, Activision had no choice but to toss aside their established release schedule and put their collection of MW3 teasers online. As is revealed in the leaked document, the unplanned announcement luckily took place only a week ahead of their planned announcement, but even so, Hirshberg made it painfully clear that they don’t look kindly on spilling company secrets:
“I wanted to reach out to you today and address the Call of Duty intellectual property leak that occurred last Friday…Of course, Activision takes very seriously any abuse of our intellectual property — the event is under investigation and we’re confident it will be resolved quickly…
“What I want to tell you about is how we handled the event internally…We were lucky in that we were very close to our scheduled reveal date, and therefore, we had a number of assets that had not yet been released, but were ready to go.”
Whether Activision gets heads rolling by this time next month, you can’t help but look on the bright side. If the details had been released before Infinity Ward had put together marketing materials, then the arrival of any teasers or TV spots would be somewhat underwhelming by the time they arrived.
From the looks we’ve had at the teasers, it’s clear that the studio already had the promotional videos ready to go. Any gaming fan knows that handling the fallout from a major leak of information is a tall order, but Hirshberg took the opportunity to applaud those employees who acted fast to make the best of a bad situation:
“When it came to light that we had suffered a significant security breach, it became clear that a leak of this size had the potential to throw our launch off of its schedule, or worse, blunt its momentum…As a company, we needed to look both backwards and forwards simultaneously. Of course we needed to immediately begin finding the source of the leak. But we also needed to deal with the fact that, like it or not, our launch had just begun.”
And begun with a bang. Marketing on Modern Warfare 3 was released by Activision and quickly flooded social media, a decision that Hirshberg recently claimed was a calculated move. Hirshberg’s e-mail went on to explain that senior staff met and decided that instead of trying to cover up the leaks or stick their heads in the sand, they would do their best to capitalize on the publicity.
Hirshberg notes that by getting the teasers out during a flurry of publicity – instead of using them to generate one – they drew more YouTube views then either Modern Warfare‘s trailers ever received. In addition, the pre-order sales gathered as a result have given the game a massive amount of momentum right out of the gate.
The feat isn’t just one to be proud of, Hirshberg states, but one that not many publishers could have pulled off:
“Very few companies could have woken up with a crisis of this magnitude, and gone to bed with an undeniable win…Everyone should be extremely proud. We’ve got a long way to go. But under very challenging circumstances, we managed to get our launch off to an incredible start.”
It’s hard to disagree, with Modern Warfare 3 already stealing much of the spotlight from Battlefield 3, the game’s expected competition. Whether the game turns buzz into dollars is still unknown, but if the last CoD title – Black Ops – is any sign of what’s possible then the sky is the limit.
Now we’ll have to stay tuned to the first look at Modern Warfare 3 during the NBA Finals on May 23. If the next few weeks keep this excitement up, having the game leak ahead of schedule may be the best thing that’s happened to Infinity Ward in quite some time.
Modern Warfare 3 is scheduled for a November 8 release for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.