How many Call of Duty fans would travel to Los Angeles and pay $150 for a two-day event featuring the first hands-on with Modern Warfare 3, the chance to play real-life paintball based on a Modern Warfare 2 map and other ridiculousness? Activision's betting 6,000 people will.
Activision's calling this Call of Duty XP 2011. It takes place on September 2 and 3, within a 12-acre compound in California that's going to "feel like you stepped into the game," according to Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg, whom I recently spoke to on the phone about the event.
You might know Hirschberg's name because I've published parts of his internal memos to Activision on Giant Bomb before. That didn't exactly come up during our conversation yesterday.
There are a couple of things to note about the price tag associated with Call of Duty XP 2011. BlizzCon, which Hirshberg admitted to deeply examining while planning, is charging $175. In this case, Activision is not profiting from the tickets. All of the proceeds from the ticket sales are going into the Call of Duty Endowment, a non-profit that helps transition veterans into civilian life.
"The event itself will cost us considerably more than we would have recouped from ticket sales, anyway," said Hirshberg. "Part of it is about raising money for a great cause, part of it's about just giving a kick-ass experience for the fans."== TEASER ==
Hirshberg noted the $150 tag fell about in line with the going rate for similar events.
"When we decided to make it 100% of the proceeds donation to Call of Duty Endowment, we wanted to make that a meaningful donation number," he said. "It felt about right, and I think that for $150, we're going to deliver a two-day experience that will be an unbelievable value to anyone who attends."
What're you getting for your money?
First crack at playing Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer and Spec-Ops modes, a chance to compete in a 32-team bracketed tournament for more than one million in cash and prizes, panels with Call of Duty developers, live shows from unnamed "AAA entertainment," an on-site museum, access to a paintball setup modeled after the "Scrapyard" map from Modern Warare 2, some mysterious exclusives available only to those who attend the event, a usable zip line, a full-scale, playable recreation of The Pit, a chance to eat in Burger Town and some other unannounced "attractions."
If you're not attending, much of the event will be recorded and released online.
"It's all about the experience," said Hirshberg. "It's all about the fact that the game is about mastery, the game is about investment of time and improving and constantly becoming better as you compete. Those are the pillars of this experience. It's all about bringing the experience of the game to life."
There are no plans to expand the event outside of Los Angeles at the moment, partially because most of the developers are already located in the area. During the event, many of them will be working on Modern Warfare 3, which is already locked into a release date of November 8.
"Obviously, they're going to be hard at work putting the finishing touches on Modern Warare 3 when this happens," he said, "and we wanted to make it easy for them to participate, since they're a huge part of the attraction of being there."
One of the big reveals at Call of Duty XP 2011 will be full clarity on Call of Duty: Elite, the service Activision recently introduced that's stacking on top of Call of Duty. Part of it will be free, part of it will cost money. The biggest cause for confusion when it was first announced was which parts would require players to use a wallet, which Hirshberg promised would be cleared up.
"Part of what we struggled with in the launch," he said, "was because it's so baked into Modern Warfare 3, some of the features weren't demonstrable. We wanted to do a beta, so we had to choose between a rock and a hard place. Launching without a full feature set or doing a beta, we chose the beta because we thought ultimately it's going to let us have a better product at launch. At Call of Duty XP, you'll see the feature set and everything that's free and everything that's paid for will be explained."
Tickets for Call of Duty XP 2011 go on sale on July 19. Are you in?