Call of Duty: WWII, developed by Sledgehammer Games and published by Activision, marks a return to roots by bringing players back to the war that started the entire franchise. It is a highly anticipated entry in the franchise, considering how its past few games have taken players to the future and outer space. Activision debuted the game’s multiplayer modes and gameplay at this year’s E3, giving attending fans their first chance to try the game out well before its launch in November.
NBA star and celebrity spokesperson Karl-Anthony Towns made appearances at Activision’s E3 booth to further spur excitement on the show floor, but the real spectacle would happen high up in the sky. On the opening day of E3, two groups of World War II-era planes flew over the Los Angeles Convention Center to promote the upcoming game. The two flybys made multiple passes over the South Hall of the convention center, flying approximately 800-1,000 feet off the ground. The first group included a C-53 transport plane while the second squadron included AT-6 planes based in Van Nuys, California.
AListDaily spoke with Todd Harvey, SVP of marketing at Activision, about what inspired the high-flying activation.
“Historical authenticity is a central tenet in Sledgehammer Games’ development philosophy for Call of Duty: WWII and a cornerstone of our marketing efforts,” said Harvey. “In addition to the planned activities within the convention center, we were passionate about finding a way to respectfully extend our presence to the conference attendees outside. The activation was a great way add impact to the show while celebrating the history of World War II aviation.”
So, what was involved with getting this activation off the ground, so to speak?
“In order to pull off the flybys of E3 using vintage World War II planes, we carefully coordinated with a handful of Southern California aviation preservationist groups such as the Condor Squadron based nearby in Van Nuys,” Harvey explained. “These groups are made up of passionate individuals who devote much of their time to preserve and fly vintage planes, many from the era. There was a shared interest to participate because of the relevance to Call of Duty this year, and also because it was a chance to share their passion with the new generation of gaming fans.
“In terms of the activation itself, working with these aviators, we coordinated a safe, but exciting flight plan that would be fun for a viewer on the ground.”
Although the flyby was one of the key highlights of the show, we couldn’t overlook how packed the Activision show floor booth was since the event was open to the public this year. Fans waited in long lines to be among the first to play Call of Duty: WWII. We asked Harvey how E3 compared to engaging with audiences at other public events.
“E3 differs from most of our public events in that it’s primarily an industry conference,” said Harvey. “While the information needs of the attendees are at times different than the general public, at the end of the day, the steps we take to drive engagement doesn’t differ greatly from our other public events. Being informative and entertaining is important to all audiences. This year, the general public attended E3 for the first time, and the presence of consumers didn’t change our plans in any substantive way.”
Harvey also detailed how Karl-Anthony Towns became involved with Call of Duty’s promotion. “We first met Karl-Anthony during Call of Duty’s release in 2015, and more recently sponsored him last year during our fan celebration event, Call of Duty XP,” he said. “His knowledge of Call of Duty’s history and interest in the various aspects of gameplay is impressive. This year, with our return to the Call of Duty franchise’s roots in World War II, we felt E3 would be a great opportunity to sponsor his appearance and host him here at the show. He was able to spend time with and play Call of Duty: WWII and met some of the team. He was great to work with, and an absolute pleasure.”
In addition to its E3 showing, Activision further engaged with its community by bringing the Making of Call of Duty livestream series back to Facebook Live last week. Hosted by actress Alison Haislip, developers at Sledgehammer Games provided an in-depth look at newly revealed multiplayer modes through the fan-focused livestream. The first episode debuted episode in May and more are expected to release during the lead-up to Call of Duty: WWII’s launch.
“Delivering this program in a live broadcast where our team can engage directly with fans to share insights of the choices they make, and provide an authentic look of what goes into producing a title like Call of Duty is what this is all about,” Activision CMO Tim Ellis said in a statement. “Making Call of Duty is another critical step in connecting deeply with our community. It follows the reveal in April, which was the most watched livestream in franchise history. We’re bringing a new level of engagement to fans where they can consume and interact directly.”