Activision Gets StreetWise on Charlie Oscar Delta

Activision recently enlisted StreetWise to create for Call of Duty 4. The campaign has been a perfect example of how to serve but also utilize your fanbase.

by David Radd on Monday, November 12, 2007

Official game websites have been synonymous with the word "placeholder" over the past few years. With very few exceptions, websites have featured some basic media for the game, maybe some back-story and game info, an e-mail notification of when the game shipped and maybe a way to buy the game directly. These sorts of sites aren't very exciting and would often send fans to more general gaming websites to talk with each other and discuss the game

Activision, well aware of the typical gaming website, decided to do something different for Call of Duty 4, one of their flagship brands. Launched in a semi-viral fashion, features much more than just the end of a teaser trailer. With user-generated content, a member rewards system, blogs, exclusive videos, behind-the-scenes vignettes, new trailers and direct contact with the development team, it not only engaged the fans, but served as a great source of info, allowing Activision to gather valuable data on beta tests, promotions and concepts. It's Web 2.0 executed precisely.

We sat down with Tabatha Hayes, Senior Global Brand Manager on Call of Duty for Activision, and Ryan Okum, President of StreetWise Concepts and Culture, to find out how they got 500,000 members on Charlie Oscar Delta.

Making consumers hear (and see) the Call of Duty
Charlie Oscar Delta was a true collection of ideas and talents coalescing to make a truly unique property among game websites. The idea came from Activision to make an online destination that would not only have assets but true interaction between the community and the developers. Streetwise took that idea and ran with it, leveraging what they knew about online networking to create something unique for the Call of Duty fanbase.

"The concept for Charlie was really born with the brand team at Activision. They wanted to know how to build this community and how to activate it up to the release of the game," said Okum. "This is what we do: building and managing communities. This is in our sweet spot and we've worked together [with Activision] for four and a half years. Really over the last 12 - 18 months, they've really looked into these online communities and CRM brands, but this has been the largest campaign we've worked with each other on."

"The feedback we've gotten has been tremendous, and not only for the reveal," he continued. "April of this year, Activision secured media coverage during the NFL Draft for, stating how you could see the rest of the teaser video they showed. We're up to half a million community members right now and we have tons of qualitative feedback from people. We've had success with everything, from the access to the developers to getting their opinions on the marketing campaign. A good example was how the community was able to voice their opinion on the packaging for the retail version of Call of Duty 4."

When asked what prompted the decision to go with StreetWise, Hayes responded, "For me, it was, seeing [what they did with] Marvel Ultimate Alliance, the challenges that they had with that and their effectiveness of working on that community. The game's brand manger had that initial relationship with StreetWise and they managed to take the Marvel Ultimate Alliance site and roll it into Spider-man. We needed a community and they honestly seemed like the best people to talk to. I don't even know who does this is in their space and it wouldn't matter, because I'm so pleased with them."

Sights are hot for Charlie Oscar Delta
It's not just the community that really makes Charlie Oscar Delta exceptional but also what the community has been formed around on the site. It's given players access to exclusive screenshots and media, free passes to the multiplayer beta, a chance to blog, form clans, interact with the developers, get swag and participate in contests like the one to create an official Xbox 360 theme for Call of Duty 4. It's engaged the fan base in a way that few other official game sites have heretofore.

"We wanted to keep something separate from the casual site, People in online communities are kind of in the know, just like how the site name is a code, it's like you're in the know," revealed Hayes. "We thought it was important to directly connect with consumer. Letting the community interact with themselves was a priority, helping us innovate on the functionality on the site. We wanted to make sure there weren't any large boundaries between us. On Charlie Oscar Delta, we broke news items on Call of Duty 4 and we gave exclusive assets out to our members. We also don't have as many assets out there [as some games], but they're all very high quality. Usually, game websites have the same media that you can get on general enthusiast websites, but we hold things back for ourselves and we hold in some assets to be exclusive, rewarding our most hardcore fans. They're our first line of defense; they'll go out there and evangelize our product."

"We wanted gamers to be able to communicate with each other, not only for forums, but blogs and in a separate area for the developers," commented Okum. "Charlie Oscar Delta was also the first place where people could sign up for the beta, and the feedback was used to change the game, and also what perks to add for downloadable content packs."

"This is the first time a third party has done a multiplayer feedback via Xbox Live," added Hayes. "It was very important, and we made some changes to the controls because of it. There was also a direct way to contact Infinity Ward and a separate forum where people could probe Infinity Ward for questions about the game. The biggest thing about the feedback is that it let us know what is resonating and figuring out what's the best way to get materials to [our fans]. More than anything, it made sure our marketing was on target."

Can Call of Duty become the no. 1 shooter franchise?
This sort of online community driven website seems very cutting edge, but it's also practical and makes a lot of sense as an investment by Activision. Via Charlie Oscar Delta, the publisher can directly engage their most fervent fanbase, exchanging information with them in such a way that they can help positively shape the product before it releases. It seems like a natural fit for gamers and the video game industry; we would expect to see more sites like Charlie Oscar Delta, helping to fulfill the true promise of the Internet as a means to shrink the world.

"Within gaming in particular, there's interest to create branded communities in between game releases and own that relationship in the long term because it puts them into a better position with their core fans," ventured Okum. "To Activision's credit, they've been very proactive on these matters. Instead of a generic website with an email blast on the release [of the game], we have all the options. From my perspective, having this lesson of interaction has been amazing. Every marketer would love to call 10,000 consumers and ask their opinion and now they can do this. For the brand team, it's a resource they've never been able to access before. From the members' perspective, I'm happy we could deliver on the value proposition. Everyone was busy getting things up, but when we told members you can sign up on these things and we delivered on everything, it made it all worth it. That everyone walked away from the site and got exclusive content and swag is very satisfying."

"We're still scratching the surface with this," said Hayes. "It's really cost effective to give them information like this and you get immediate feedback about the product. That's a really healthy return on your investment, since it's really all about understanding our product and brand. What I've been challenging all my partners is getting from X to Y and trying to create a mass market for [Call of Duty]. This is going to be the year where we break all sorts of records, and try and become among the top 10 franchises in the world and also the number one shooter series."

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