Activision CEO Speaks Out on Modern Warfare LeakBy Alex Co | May 22, 2011 | News | 2 comments | Share
If you still haven’t heard of Modern Warfare 3’s leak by now you’re missing out; from the campaign’s story, setting, and multiplayer details, this looks like one of the most elaborate leaks of all time.
What does publisher Activision think of all this? Here we have Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg’s reaction concerning the leak and more (courtesy of Joystiq).
Hirshberg starts off by saying, “Friday was a really interesting, a really kind of cool day,” as he reflects on last week’s massive Modern Warfare 3 leak spearheaded by site – Kotaku.
The CEO also candidly commented “No one wakes up and thinks, ‘I hope there’s been a leak and our timing gets all messed up,’” and adds that but “if members of the government and the military aren’t safe from this stuff, it’s a part of our world now.”
“And while it’s definitely not cool to steal other people’s intellectual property, and while it’s definitely not cool to leak stuff that’s not yours, there are ways that you can respond that actually turn the lemons into lemonade,” he added. “And that’s what we tried to do on Friday.”
He also said how “easy it was to get obsessed” over the leak and how it happened, but added in that you “need to be comfortable of those rapids in this day and age.” That’s also one of the things he thinks separates good marketing from great marketing today.
There was an internal discussion following the leak and “There was a diverse chorus of voices at the table,” Hirshberg remembers. “Everything from ‘do nothing; we’re sticking with our plan; this will blow over’ to ‘lean even further into it’ to what we did — and everything in between.” He said an effort was made to “see through the lens of our fans,” the same people who got really excited because of the leak and added that they didn’t do anything wrong.
We woke up with a marketing crisis and wanted to go to bed with a marketing win.Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg
We woke up with a marketing crisis and wanted to go to bed with a marketing win.” Hirshberg says of the final decision. He added that they took the “exact conversation” they were having in the conference room and had it publicly in social media, through Facebook, their Youtube page and through Robert Bowling (Infinity Ward Community Manager). In doing so, they reached out to their fans and plainly said, “Look, we didn’t schedule this. This wasn’t something we had planned. But everyone seems excited, so we’re just going to roll with it. So here they are, a couple of assets that weren’t scheduled to be out for another couple of weeks, we’re going to release ‘em to you today.” He was of course, referring to the four Modern Warfare 3 teasers that Activision released to satiate the people who wanted to know if anything about the leak was true.
The Youtube clips, which consisted of teasers to four Modern Warfare 3 settings garnered more than 3 million combined views in just 48 hours, according to Hirshberg’s data. In comparison to Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops’ teasers, this attracted a smaller audience of 61,000 and 89,000 views respectively in their first two days of availability – and all this with the trailers being released according to schedule. By the numbers alone Hirshberg believes “so I think we managed to turn a crisis into an opportunity.”
The Activision boss also added “Now, people aren’t consumers of brands anymore; they’re fans of brands,” further nothing that “We kept coming back to the fans, to the people who love this game; who are just waiting; for whom that day was just a really cool day.”
He also gave out his thoughts on how they wanted the handling of information be done their way, “All that interest for us we knew was harnessable in a positive way. The other thing we wanted to do was, if there’s gonna be a dialogue about our game, we want it to be between us and our fans and not between the leakers and our fans.”
If there's gonna be a dialogue about our game, we want it to be between us and our fans and not between the leakers and our fansHirshberg
“You don’t want to spoil the surprises that the game has to offer,” he added. “Leaks are not positive things, even though we might have used it as a way to amplify our initial viewership.”
Hirshberg also admitted that whoever the source of the leak was “clearly had deep access,” but also rebutted that “not everything that was leaked is accurate.” Activision is conducting its own internal investigation regarding the whole leak but it looks to have taken a back seat to the public’s reaction. “The mystery of the leak itself is not solved, and it’s better to let that unfold.”
We’re not stopping there! Giant Bomb’s Patrick Klepek has managed to get his hands on an email Hirshberg sent to Activision employees the morning of May 20th.
The email starts out with “Hey gang,” this is the first company-wide acknowledgement Activision has done regarding the Modern Warfare 3 leak.
“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.”
Klepek has heard several theories about who supposedly leaked the whole thing, but no one was specifically mentioned in Hirshberg’s internal memo.
We also needed to deal with the fact that, like it or not, our launch had just begun.Hirshberg, in an internal letter to Activision employees
“What I want to tell you about is how we handled the event internally,” Hirshberg 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.”
The assets mentioned are again, the four teaser trailers Infinity Ward has successfully released to the public as recognition that Modern Warfare 3 is indeed coming out.
Hirshberg acknowledged the breach itself and added that “a leak of this size had the potential to throw our launch off of its schedule, or worse, blunt its momentum.” He added, ”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.”
He revealed that “our leadership team and key members of the Call of Duty team” met to discuss strategy.
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.
Hirshberg also reiterated parts of what he said to Joystiq. How Modern Warfare 3‘s teaser have been watched way more than Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops‘ teasers, how pre-sales for MW3 are off to an amazing start among others.
He finished the letter off by saying, ”Very few companies could have woken up with a crisis of this magnitude, and gone to bed with an undeniable win,” this is the same sentiment and comment he gave Joystiq and adding in “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.”
While one can’t deny that last week’s Modern Warfare 3 leak is one of the biggest in recent memory, it also helped the game somewhat in my opinion. Before the leak happened everyone was raving about how Battlfield 3 was using a new engine, how it would blow the next Call of Duty game away, etc. The leak at least somehow managed to get some of the attention away from EA’s upcoming shooter.
This doesn’t mean the game will be better by any means of course, we’ll have to wait this November to know which game will come out on top, but for a franchise that’s suddenly growing old with brand fatigue, Activision couldn’t have asked for a better jump-start for Modern Wafare 3′s public awareness.
Modern Warfare 3′s big reveal is expected to happen this coming May 24th.