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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.

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"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.
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+
127 CommentsRefresh

Avatar image for selftest
Posted By Selftest

There's a reason they're so ginormous, folks. Activision knows (now) how to handle this shit. This is the internet, folks. There is no such thing as a secret. Once companies realize that, they will fair much better in todays world.

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Edited By MiniPato
@downtime58 said:

@MiniPato: Fair enough, I've never played BF2 so I can't qualify its gameplay.

I guess my main question is this - is BF3 really so different from BC1 or 2 in its feature set...from what I can tell, large maps, with vehicles and squads was exactly what the two Bad Company games offered. BF3 looks to have the same things, with a persistent-leveling system and combat classes. On the whole, all of these things aren't new to the realm of console shooters any longer, so why in one breath decry how unoriginal the COD series has been, and in another breath praise a different franchise which essentially has been adopting the same tactic...ie, releasing similar games with slight iterative improvements over time. Maybe I think about these things too much - I'll play them both anyway.

Battlefield 3 is like the Mortal Kombat reboot of Battlefield. Sure, the BC games were good, but they aren't something a Battlefield fan on the PC wants from their battlefield game. The maps in BC aren't as big as BF, player count isn't even half of BF. After years of hiatus, Battlefield is back and people are pumped. As opposed to Call Of Duty which people have been seeing on a yearly basis. Again, play Battlefield 2 and tell me any game in the past 5 years that feels anything like it.

MW3's single player looks as exciting as ever and I always look forward to it, but the multiplayer has gotten stale and unless they do something to drastically change it like CoD4, then I'm turning to BF3 to satisfy my multiplayer shooting.
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Edited By ProfessorEss
@ELincoln said:

Interesting story. Say what you will about Activision, they're incredibly competent  when it comes to marketing and hype-building. If only they showed such talent in an area more relevant to gamers.

Sales would argue that it is very, very relevant to gamers.
Avatar image for downtime58
Posted By downtime58
@MiniPato: Fair enough, I've never played BF2 so I can't qualify its gameplay.

I guess my main question is this - is BF3 really so different from BC1 or 2 in its feature set...from what I can tell, large maps, with vehicles and squads was exactly what the two Bad Company games offered. BF3 looks to have the same things, with a persistent-leveling system and combat classes. On the whole, all of these things aren't new to the realm of console shooters any longer, so why in one breath decry how unoriginal the COD series has been, and in another breath praise a different franchise which essentially has been adopting the same tactic...ie, releasing similar games with slight iterative improvements over time. Maybe I think about these things too much - I'll play them both anyway.
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Posted By ELincoln

Interesting story. Say what you will about Activision, they're incredibly competent  when it comes to marketing and hype-building. If only they showed such talent in an area more relevant to gamers.

Avatar image for dvorak
Posted By dvorak
@Koshka:  For some reason everyone keeps quoting this days later. I didn't mean it like you think.

I mean it's obligatory for ME as a fan of FPSs to play this and keep up with the franchise and my other friends who play them. Not anyone else in particular. I didn't mean it as a general statement.
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Posted By Koshka
@dvorak said:
I feel like it's basically obligatory as a fan of FPS games to get this.
Whoa! Hell no for me, thank you very much.

I'm an FPS fan for things like BF2 and ArmA2, but not for games like CoD:MW and up. The multiplayer is of no interest to me and I can't and never have said it's fun. Just my two cents, but don't go on saying it's "obligatory"...
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Posted By thornie_delete
@LiquidPrince: Except Kotaku is not a professional site, it's part of Gawker media and is a GOSSIP site for video games.  Journalistic "integrity" is not one of their strong suits.  This is coming from the same family of websites that leaked the iphone4 when they paid someone for a prototype that was left at a bar by a developer.  Please try not to put Kotaku on a pedestal, they deal in gossip, heresay, and rumors and they do it well.
Avatar image for wintermute
Edited By wintermute

Allow me to translate this memo:


Hey guys, we were planning to TOTALLY SHOCK the ENTIRE WORLD next week by announcing a MODERN WARFARE 3 VIDEO GAME that I'm sure NOBODY WAS EXPECTING. But now, some little tattler has gone and ruined all our plans by spilling the beans to evil, greedy, web loggers. 

It's cool though. That pipsqueak will be found and his family will be punished. In the meantime, we were able to turn these lemons into lemonade by doing all the stuff we had already planned to do. And from the looks of it, our corporate executives and stockholders will be able to enjoy an even larger pile of glorious cash from all of your hard work. Isn't our executive leadership team great? Their quick response made it possible for our CEO to protect his valuable Intellectual Property from the deviousness of you, the proletariat. All praise to our Great Leader!

Now, don't worry your little heads about this any more. Just get back to work, and try not to have fun. For the good of the people.

Sincerely,
Eric Hindenberg
Avatar image for contro
Posted By Contro

The solution is finding the fuckers, sacking them, and then making their profiles visible so other developers can see who they don't want as employees. 

Avatar image for armycrow
Posted By ArmyCrow

So they've mentioned they need to both look forwards and backwards at the same time. How long will it be before they are twirling. Twirling towards freedom.?

Avatar image for minipato
Edited By MiniPato
@downtime58 said:

@Styl3s: I don't get the people complaining about MW3 and then saying they can't wait for BF3 as though it's going to be something totally different.
I don't know if people are looking at different previews than me but last I checked linear single player levels full of faux-realistic military situations. vocabulary and weapons doesn't exactly strike me as breaking the mold - what is BF3 offering that console players haven't already seen in Bad Company 1 and 2?

First off, the main draw of BF3 is not the singleplayer. Real fans of past Battlefield games (NOT BAT COMPANY AS THEY ARE SEPARATE SERIES) are looking forward to the large scale, vehicle based, squad based combat. Secondly, Bad Company is not Battlefield, it may have the Battlefield name, but it is not Battlefield. Bad Company is the consolified, CoD-fied Battlefield. Real Battlefield games feel more like PC FPS games. You must have never played Battlefield 2 on the PC, which is what Battlefield 3 is a sequel to. You really can't judge FPS games by footage. You really have to play them to see how they handle. Play Battlefield 2 and then try claiming that it's just reskinned Call of Duty.
Avatar image for zig6
Posted By Zig6

This leak can be huge for MW3.  I'm confident that MW3 will outsell Blops.

Avatar image for carljbern
Posted By carljbern

Kinda skeptical about this, it feels like they are milking the cow dry.

Avatar image for gbrading
Posted By gbrading

It's like "This has been a very good day for us... But whoever leaked this is going to be flayed alive."

Avatar image for duffyside
Posted By Duffyside

"... we needed to look both backwards and forwards simultaneously. "


We must move forward, not backward! Upward, not forward! And always twirling, twirling, TWIRLING TOWARDS FREEDOM!
Avatar image for majesticoverlord
Posted By MajesticOverlord

I'm so hyped for this game, along with Battlefield 3. The Call of Duty series have always had a fun fast pace arcade like experience. Also, Infinity ward have Captain Price. 

Avatar image for downtime58
Posted By downtime58
@Styl3s: I don't get the people complaining about MW3 and then saying they can't wait for BF3 as though it's going to be something totally different.

I don't know if people are looking at different previews than me but last I checked linear single player levels full of faux-realistic military situations. vocabulary and weapons doesn't exactly strike me as breaking the mold - what is BF3 offering that console players haven't already seen in Bad Company 1 and 2?
Avatar image for example1013
Posted By Example1013
@MetalMoog said: 

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.

You're a unique snowflake.

@Kahoona said:
I love how they refer to the game as "Call of Duty Intellectual Property".  It's like they don't even want to acknowledge it's a game, just a commodity to them.

Here's a secret. That's how they make so much money. They don't care about the game itself. 
Avatar image for wvueers
Posted By WVUEers

Conspiracy Theory Idea:


What if some big wigs at Activision purposefully leaked the material because they know full well that this version of the game might suffer poor sales regardless due to the Guitar Hero syndrome. By doing this they can somewhat attempt to save face in the eyes of the shareholders and public in saying that it's poor sales are due to this rather then say the series becoming monotonous. We all know that in truth this will hardly effect sales, but in very up in the air year for the franchise one must assume that there are a lot of people who are afraid to see the brand name of Call of Duty linked with poor sales for no particular reason aside of lost interest. Of course should the game do great they can even tag this on to their little number by saying "who would have know what could have been".

Again just free thinking, I actually don't believe any of what I just said.
Avatar image for captain_clayman
Posted By captain_clayman

its like the same box art again.

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Posted By the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG

wouldnt be surprised if this game sold more than Black Ops

Avatar image for crescentfresh
Posted By CrescentFresh

I like how we are reading a leaked email about finding a leak.

Avatar image for xsheps
Posted By Xsheps

This series has become so popular that I doubt the leak matters much if at all for the game's sales and the company's profits.

Avatar image for mformaverick
Posted By MforMaverick

This leak wasn't going to ruin sales at all. People are going to flock to MW3 like it was Jesus. Activision calm down and enjoy the money that will come your way. I skipped on Black Ops knowing that Modern Warfare 3 was going to be due the following year. No surprise here. 

Online
Avatar image for xeridae
Posted By Xeridae

Hilarious that he thinks that because the info was leaked it's going to impact sales of the game at all.

Basically all that was revealed was that yes, there will be a MW3 (shocking) and what locations the game will take place in.

I can just picture his reaction, "Gentlemen, stop everything and rebuild the game from scratch".

Avatar image for liquidprince
Posted By LiquidPrince

I still feel it was a dick move on Kotaku's part to leak the game like that. I mean, you are trying to be a professional site, so you shouldn't have a hand in distributing such a bad leak...

Avatar image for forsakenskys
Posted By forsakenskys

If it looks good/story  ill buy .

Avatar image for loggerrythm
Posted By LoggerRythm

"O.k. guys. I know that everyone outside the company knew there was going to be a Modern Warfare 3, I mean let's be honest I need a new Jaguar and Blizzard said their not going to release Diablo 3 for another decade, so I want names and I.D. badges associated with those names by noon tomorrow or we're going to have to fire what's left of the original Infinity Ward team!" - Probably actual comment from a certain big wig. 

Avatar image for bybeach
Edited By bybeach

I enjoy the MW series despite as formulaic as they are and how they are becoming. Sort of a intense military shooter (COD Roots) with a roller coaster sans safety harness wrapped around. They seemed to be expanding this approach as of MW2, and strongly expect more in MW3.  Up to now they haven't reached bottom, and I suspect MW3, especially with the Head Honchos gone, may not know where else to venture, but whatever we see was probably going to approximate it anyways. There may have been a storyline already created that for all I know goes well beyond MW3, and they sort of know where they are going to some detail.

 

And yes, good recovery. If I worked there I would be proud. But I''m not all frothing for the game, yet unless it critically fails, will be their best customer. It's only if the quality and intensity lessens in the SP campaign that I will loose interest. Yes the story is all over the place, but so are 2 sparking high voltage wires thrashing on the floor, I needs to see what happens!

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Edited By ahoodedfigure

I see why bigger companies may want to protect their content releases, but a leak could easily be capitalized upon instead of going nuts acting like it's going to ruin the magic, as they showed. My spidey sense tells me they probably shouldn't worry too much about this thing selling, anyway.

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Posted By Chubbaluphigous

Interesting read, though the game holds 0 interest for me.  Call of Duty is dead to me.

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Posted By Altersparck
@Curufinwe: I think you misread that. I meant that Sony could learn better PR management from Activision, Microsoft, Nintendo, Apple, etc. I agree, though, that Apple doesn't really need help from anyone in regards to PR.
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Posted By TheJollyRajah

I'm SO done with COD.

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Posted By sameeeeam
@me3639 said:
Curious is to how you obtained an inter company email?
Contacts, I'd assume. Patrick has done it before.
Avatar image for rowr
Posted By Rowr

herpdy derpdy herp derp

Avatar image for jec03
Posted By JEC03

Never saw what the big deal was about the COD series is to me BF is still the best BF2 is literally better then every cod game ever made.

Avatar image for claritysam
Posted By ClaritySam
@vizionblind said:
bring on battlefield 3
Avatar image for solemn
Posted By Solemn

I want to finish the stuff that started four years ago. I want to finish this story arc and be done with Call of Duty.

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Posted By Kahoona

I love how they refer to the game as "Call of Duty Intellectual Property".  It's like they don't even want to acknowledge it's a game, just a commodity to them.

Avatar image for groovemonkey
Posted By groovemonkey

wonder what killstreaks they gonna have in Mw3..

Avatar image for delusibeta
Posted By Delusibeta

The fact that this e-mail also leaked suggests to me that the whole thing is a PR stunt. A very effective PR stunt, admittedly, but still.

Avatar image for yanngc33
Posted By Yanngc33
@Funkydupe said:
How long can they keep making these?
As long as they print money for them
Avatar image for mistermouse
Posted By MisterMouse

smart way of playing it...

Avatar image for hojufixter
Posted By hojufixter

Huge amount of views. And in only 48 hours? Shit......

Avatar image for briangodsoe
Posted By briangodsoe

It would suck to be the guy fired for essential getting people interested in a game and boosting sales. How dare he release the existence of a game that everybody knew was going to happen!  

Avatar image for def
Edited By DeF

I don't even see how this leak could have affected ANYTHING about the game negatively.

People want Call of Duty, now they know there is a new Call of Duty - everybody is happy. That memo makes it sound like a new very high-profile IP got revealed extremely early and thus any chances of potential hype-momentum might've been ruined. What actually happened was that stuff that was supposed to come out within a week (!) was pushed out early. The leaked plot, in my opinion, doesn't even factor into anything. I doubt anyone who usually goes out and buys the Call of Duty games cares about the plot so much that a leak like this would cause them to revise their buying decision.

This might just as well have been a very clever meta-marketing stunt with Activision and Kotaku cooperating since leaks are all the rage with the kids these days (having supposedly "secret" information is exciting!).

Avatar image for deactivated-58f9a027d9bbc
Posted By deactivated-58f9a027d9bbc

come on dude, this is silly
just a few screenshots and they talk about like it's some real fucking crisis

take a look at the history, the only leaks that actually caused trouble were the Doom3 and HL2 leak
and they involve the whole early build of game getting leaked
not some random screenshot and virtual gunporn
Avatar image for me3639
Posted By me3639

Curious is to how you obtained an inter company email?

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Posted By probablytuna

How do you get all these internal memos from Activision? :O