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What Activision Told Its Employees Today About Modern Warfare 3's Leak

Activision details how the reveal was supposed to work...and how it changed.

"Hey gang," starts an email that I've obtained, sent to Activision employees this morning, penned by Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg. Hirshberg's email marks Activision's first company-wide internal acknowledgement of last week's Modern Warfare 3 leak on Kotaku.

The email's tone is not unlike the candid interview Hirshberg conducted with Joystiq about earlier this week. In fact, the Joystiq interview is actually referenced within the email.

"I wanted to reach out to you today and address the Call of Duty intellectual property leak that occurred last Friday," started Hirshberg. "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."

The email does not provide any details on where Activision suspects the leak came from. I've heard several theories, none of them with definitive proof. But with so many developers and outsourcing companies working on massive, fast-tracked projects like Modern Warfare 3--well, stuff happens.

"What I want to tell you about is how we handled the event internally," he continued. "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."

== TEASER ==

Activision and Infinity Ward rolled out a series of teaser trailers to YouTube that evening. There have also been prominent advertisements running during the NBA conference finals, promising a revealing trailer next week. The companies pulled the very same marketing trick for 2009's Modern Warfare 2.

"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," he wrote. "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."

Activision and Infinity Ward's decision to simply acknowledge the leak and move on was a smart, if rather unexpected move. With the "real" launch so close, the two could have just put their heads down. Instead, beginning the reveal allowed them to capitalize on traffic and attention otherwise on Kotaku.

"Our leadership team and key members of the Call of Duty team met to discuss strategy," he said. "I, for one, was incredibly proud of the team’s performance in that critical meeting. Instead of panicking, we took the fire of interest that had been started by the leak, and poured gasoline on it. Through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, we released our four teasers (which were not scheduled to launch for another week) onto the web. With equal agility, our worldwide sales organizations managed to put both the retail and .com presale programs and assets into launch mode in no-time flat. Everybody involved delivered under pressure."

The announcement strategy for Modern Warfare 3 is not unlike the one for the last game.

Kotaku spoiled the goods--or parts of it--a week early. Some teasers would have begun rolling out this week, laying the viral groundwork for the official trailer during the NBA Finals.

"The result?" he said, numbers at the ready. "We had over 4.8 million hits on the various Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 teasers over those first 48 hours. To put that in perspective, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops had 61,000 and 89,000 hits, respectively, in their first two days. Pre-sales for MW3 are off to an amazing start. Perhaps, most importantly, we migrated the dialogue from one that was between our players and the leakers, to one between our players and us."

Translation: Modern Warfare 3 is going to be huge. The Kotaku leak may have even helped fan the flames, as gamers descended upon the site and other blogs to learn "secret" details about the game.

"Very few companies could have woken up with a crisis of this magnitude, and gone to bed with an undeniable win," he concluded, echoing similar comments made to Joystiq. "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."

We expect to learn plenty more at a little thing called E3.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek

"Hey gang," starts an email that I've obtained, sent to Activision employees this morning, penned by Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg. Hirshberg's email marks Activision's first company-wide internal acknowledgement of last week's Modern Warfare 3 leak on Kotaku.

The email's tone is not unlike the candid interview Hirshberg conducted with Joystiq about earlier this week. In fact, the Joystiq interview is actually referenced within the email.

"I wanted to reach out to you today and address the Call of Duty intellectual property leak that occurred last Friday," started Hirshberg. "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."

The email does not provide any details on where Activision suspects the leak came from. I've heard several theories, none of them with definitive proof. But with so many developers and outsourcing companies working on massive, fast-tracked projects like Modern Warfare 3--well, stuff happens.

"What I want to tell you about is how we handled the event internally," he continued. "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."

== TEASER ==

Activision and Infinity Ward rolled out a series of teaser trailers to YouTube that evening. There have also been prominent advertisements running during the NBA conference finals, promising a revealing trailer next week. The companies pulled the very same marketing trick for 2009's Modern Warfare 2.

"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," he wrote. "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."

Activision and Infinity Ward's decision to simply acknowledge the leak and move on was a smart, if rather unexpected move. With the "real" launch so close, the two could have just put their heads down. Instead, beginning the reveal allowed them to capitalize on traffic and attention otherwise on Kotaku.

"Our leadership team and key members of the Call of Duty team met to discuss strategy," he said. "I, for one, was incredibly proud of the team’s performance in that critical meeting. Instead of panicking, we took the fire of interest that had been started by the leak, and poured gasoline on it. Through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, we released our four teasers (which were not scheduled to launch for another week) onto the web. With equal agility, our worldwide sales organizations managed to put both the retail and .com presale programs and assets into launch mode in no-time flat. Everybody involved delivered under pressure."

The announcement strategy for Modern Warfare 3 is not unlike the one for the last game.

Kotaku spoiled the goods--or parts of it--a week early. Some teasers would have begun rolling out this week, laying the viral groundwork for the official trailer during the NBA Finals.

"The result?" he said, numbers at the ready. "We had over 4.8 million hits on the various Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 teasers over those first 48 hours. To put that in perspective, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops had 61,000 and 89,000 hits, respectively, in their first two days. Pre-sales for MW3 are off to an amazing start. Perhaps, most importantly, we migrated the dialogue from one that was between our players and the leakers, to one between our players and us."

Translation: Modern Warfare 3 is going to be huge. The Kotaku leak may have even helped fan the flames, as gamers descended upon the site and other blogs to learn "secret" details about the game.

"Very few companies could have woken up with a crisis of this magnitude, and gone to bed with an undeniable win," he concluded, echoing similar comments made to Joystiq. "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."

We expect to learn plenty more at a little thing called E3.

Staff
Posted by DefAde

I kinda wanna play this just to see how the silly story ends (if it is indeed the end)... but can't deny that my interest has been torn away by Battlefield 3

Posted by Napalm

I don't know, man. I'm so used to dismissing Call Of Duty these days for being derivative and uninspired, that if they decide to tone up the action and pacing to the level of a, lets say, a Bad Boys II might provide, there is an opportunity I might be back on board.

Posted by groin
@Matte_G said:
Groin is just that... a dick.
That is correct.
Posted by Commisar123

I'm still intrested in COD but this game will need to be special for me to buy it

Posted by AjayRaz

reveal trailer?! yes, please!

Posted by Funkydupe

How long can they keep making these?

Posted by Jimbo

You're saying this *ahem* leak didn't turn out so bad for them after all?  Well knock me down with a feather.

Online
Posted by Stealthmaster86

Once they find the one that leaked it, they will be fired.
Posted by SomeJerk

Hurm. Did they ever figure out who at Crytek leaked that PC alpha/beta development package then?

Posted by vizionblind

bring on battlefield 3

Posted by vaportra1l

I was just thinking about this the other day when I saw the commercial during the NBA playoffs and how they were handling this leak....  They just ended up rolling out trailers early rather than acting like the leak never happened and/or trying to figure out who to sue. 

But anyways, I was ready to write off this game after BLOPS, but I think I may be back on board but we'll see.  The info in the leak definitely perked my interest, and if they tweak the multiplayer somewhat, they have my money.

Posted by XChairmanDrekX

It can't be that big of a deal, big whoop someone said MW3 is coming out.   What a surprise... Would I get in trouble for saying that the earth revolves around the sun?

Edited by dvorak

I feel like it's basically obligatory as a fan of FPS games to get this. It's going to be up to a certain standard that will make it worthwhile to play the single-player, and to me, the price of a new game justifies the all new multi-player content. The formula might be the same in the end, but I'm alright with just a refreshed set of content each year. 


That's worth $60 to me. I spend that much on far worse games and stupid stuff. It might not be groundbreaking, but "good enough" is good enough for me when it comes to the Call of Duty franchise.

COD4 and MW2 stole the "Madden of First Person Shooters" title from Halo, and while I'm super interested in seeing what can steal it away from MW3 and it's successors, I'm okay with where we are now.
Posted by crusader8463
@XChairmanDrekX said:
It can't be that big of a deal, big whoop someone said MW3 is coming out.   What a surprise... Would I get in trouble for saying that the earth revolves around the sun?
Only if you count being burned at the stake for stating such heresy trouble.
Posted by FluxWaveZ

Wow, so instead of the Kotaku leak hindering them, it helped them tremendously. That's incredible. Good on them for doing what needed to be done instead of ignoring the leak as if nothing happened.

Posted by MrOldboy
@XChairmanDrekX said:
It can't be that big of a deal, big whoop someone said MW3 is coming out.   What a surprise... Would I get in trouble for saying that the earth revolves around the sun?
I dont know if the announcement that the game existed was really surprising. It was that it was an information leak with very specific details about the game. If you look back at how activision markets the call of duty games; they like to deliver info in bit sized chunks to keep the marketing momentum growing. They had a "special" event just to show off the multiplayer for the first time and people ate that shit up. Like it wasn't going to be like the last year's game.
Posted by Ghost407

Those numbers are fucking crazy...

Posted by schattenwolf86
@XChairmanDrekX said:
It can't be that big of a deal, big whoop someone said MW3 is coming out.   What a surprise... Would I get in trouble for saying that the earth revolves around the sun?
Did you see the info leaked on Kotaku?  The whole story was revealed.  A very detailed account at that.  It's one thing to say  "MW3 is coming out" and another to say "we have all the info on the story for MW3." 

I doubt little will change for the final story for MW3, Robert Bowling did say that some of the content leaked wasn't 100% correct, but he could be bluffing as well.
Posted by Ghost407
@Funkydupe said:
How long can they keep making these?
HAHA, for a very very long time, if they continue to sell even a fraction of what they've sold...
Edited by Altersparck

Say what you will about Activision, but they know how to work the PR magic. Sony could learn a thing or two from them (and Microsoft, Nintendo, Apple, etc...)

Posted by CrimsonNoir
@FluxWaveZ said:
Wow, so instead of the Kotaku leak hindering them, it helped them tremendously. That's incredible. Good on them for doing what needed to be done instead of ignoring the leak as if nothing happened.
i wouldn't say it helped them, it just started their hype machine earlier. mw3 will be big no matter what.
Posted by animateria

This is mostly PR talking about PR in the end.


Posted by AhmadMetallic

But with so many developers and outsourcing companies working on massive, fast-tracked projects like Modern Warfare 3--well, stuff happens.    

..how is MW3 a massive fast-tracked project ?
it's running on the same engine as MW2 and Blops - no technical massiveness
it's the sequel to the game with the story that didn't make any sense - no storywriting massiveness
it has a rehashed multiplayer component with annual tweaks - no multiplayer massiveness

I'm not hating, i'm asking: how is MW3 a massive project? what is massive about it other than it's upcoming advertisement campaign ?
Posted by themangalist

Activision lawsuits. GO!

Posted by FluxWaveZ
@CrimsonNoir said:
@FluxWaveZ said:
Wow, so instead of the Kotaku leak hindering them, it helped them tremendously. That's incredible. Good on them for doing what needed to be done instead of ignoring the leak as if nothing happened.
i wouldn't say it helped them, it just started their hype machine earlier. mw3 will be big no matter what.
That's true, but I don't think it hurt them either.
Posted by Xpgamer7

Interesting. I felt it was almost as if Activision/Infinity Ward itself started the leak, but the fact that they used it to their advantage was very smart.

Posted by Toms115

stop being so good, klepek

Posted by Beforet
@Ahmad_Metallic said:

But with so many developers and outsourcing companies working on massive, fast-tracked projects like Modern Warfare 3--well, stuff happens.    

..how is MW3 a massive fast-tracked project ?
it's running on the same engine as MW2 and Blops - no technical massiveness
it's the sequel to the game with the story that didn't make any sense - no storywriting massiveness
it has a rehashed multiplayer component with annual tweaks - no multiplayer massiveness

I'm not hating, i'm asking: how is MW3 a massive project? what is massive about it other than it's upcoming advertisement campaign ?
When you're guaranteed to bring in tens of millions of dollars, you get to be called massive.
Posted by Siphillis

In other words, Call of Duty is still bigger than Jesus and The Beatles combined.

Posted by Nokterian

No more Lol of Doody for me! Waiting for Battlefield 3 with a new engine and dedicated servers also 64 players on PC this is going to be epic!

Posted by Rukus

Wait, Kotaku still posts video game news? I stopped going there after the redesign and the fact that it became Bashcraft's personal "HEY GUYS I LIVE IN JAPAN!" blog.

Posted by JasonLeeson

I don't know about these leaks, I really don't.

Posted by wickedsc3

I want to see some gameplay.  But im sure I will pre-order anyway.

Edited by Creigz

This is why you don't outsource like a madman to squeeze out a mediocre game every year...instead develop for 2 years, and keep it in house, much easier to track down leaks, as well, quality really goes up. I've stopped even finding an interest in buying these games now until I find them in the 10 dollar bin somewhere, just to give single player a shot...if I even do that. Haven't looked at black ops once yet.

Posted by afrofools

I seriously feel like a hipster with my attitude towards COD. I hate that series and can't get over why it's so popular, even with the massive advertising budget. I have played Modern Warfare 2 and COD 4 and those were great fun and quite amazing, I played the recent game made by Treyarch and thought it was the worst game I had ever played (I've played worse, but that's how it feels at the time). Infinity Ward has done some impressive work, so maybe this one will also be awesome, even though some of the studio departed over that cross-publisher scandal.

Posted by melcene
Posted by Toxin066

We live in a world where hotcakes sell like Call of Duty games.

Posted by MetalMoog

And the same game is getting made and reskinned for the 5th year in a row! Pass on this overly stale franchise and grab BF3 instead. It's gonna dominate.

Posted by ShaneDev

Well they recovered well from it, not that they needed to recover from it. They are probably a lot more wary of all those people working on the game now since so much can be leaked like this. COD is popular I would have thought people would get that by now. Their good games that are fun to play.

Posted by Kordesh

Oh please, like it was ever a secret they were going to milk this cow more.

Online
Posted by Klei


They sure as hell talk a lot.

 

Look, millions of click on MW3 doesn't mean it' a growing franchise, Activision, it's just that people are intrigued and outright laughing at the ongoing farce that you're creating.

Posted by confideration

Zzzzzz

Posted by Nyx47
@Funkydupe: As long as it sells
Posted by LordAndrew

Has Hirshberg sent out a memo yet regarding the leaking of all his memos?

Posted by rwcohn
@LordAndrew said:
Has Hirshberg sent out a memo yet regarding the leaking of all his memos?
Already done. I assume we'll see it on the site by Monday.
Edited by ptys
@Toxin066 said:

We live in a world where hotcakes sell like Call of Duty games.

Great quote!
I easily dismiss this franchise, but I'm actually excited about this release, I think I'm going to get it!
Posted by Jerome85

Having a job=being able to purchase both MW3 and BF3.  LOL @ the little kids in denial who think BF is going to outsell COD. 

Posted by notha

the amount of boasting of how well they did after this leak leads me to believe they made the leak themselves

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