Later this year, Call of Duty fans will be able to shoot up their friends in real-world, life-sized replicas of two of the game’s maps, grab a bite to eat at the game’s fictional burger joint and get their hands on Modern Warfare 3 months before its release as part of a video game convention designed to celebrate the franchise and its fans.
The paintballing, burger-eating, game-playing two-day event is Call of Duty fans’ answer to the annual video game conference about all things World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo; Blizzcon. Though in the case of Call of Duty XP, there’s no guarantee that it will become an annual event.
Instead, Activision tells Kotaku, the company is concentrating on making this year’s an event to remember.
“This will be to Call of Duty fans what running through Willy Wonka’s factory would be like for kids,” Activision Publishing President Eric Hirshberg told Kotaku. “When we decided to do this we went all in. There will be some pretty remarkable spectacle at this event.”
Tickets for Activision’s two day Call of Duty XP convention, which take place on September 2 and September 3, go on sale on July 19 at $US150 a pop, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to the Call of Duty Endowment, a non-profit set up by Activision to help veterans find jobs when they leave the service.
Activision expects to sell 7000 tickets. If they do sell that many tickets it would raise a little more than $US1 million for the endowment. Activision raised about $US1 million for CODE last year during the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops.
“This will be to Call of Duty fans what running through Willy Wonka’s factory would be like for kids.”
The two-day Call of Duty XP event will take place in Los Angeles but Hirshberg declined to say where, only noting that the location was like “stepping into the video game” before they had done anything to it. Activision public relations describe the venue as a 12-acre compound in the “urban confines of Los Angeles”.
The event will give attendees a chance to attend a number of panels and keynotes about the franchise and see “triple a closing acts” for both days. But the real attraction will likely be the chance to play Call of Duty both on a console and in the real world.
September’s event will be the global reveal of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3‘s online multiplayer. It will also give gamers a first look at the all of the features of Call of Duty‘s online service: Elite.
Hirshberg said the event will have “tons of consoles” giving everyone in attendance a chance to get their hands on the game’s multiplayer Special Ops mode as well as some “new innovations” found in the game’s traditional multiplayer modes.
The event will also be host to a massive 32-team bracket Call of Duty tournament with a $US1 million prize co-sponsored by the Xbox 360. Gamers will have a chance to quality for the tournament prior to the event by playing Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer at regional promotions and competitions, Activision said. The tournament will also have “select, on-site/at-large qualification,” Activision said.
Attendees will also have a chance to drop into real-world versions of two Call of Duty maps and face off against best times or friends in paintball versions of the popular first-person shooter.
Hirshberg said Activision will be building a full-scale version of the medium-sized Scrapyard map from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer, and using it as a “paintball theatre”. Fans will also be able to run through The Pit time course, a Special Ops level in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, armed with paintball guns.
In the game Scrapyard is a map built around an aircraft boneyard, complete with fuselages that players can run through. The Pit is a time trial with pop-up wooden enemies and civilians.
All events will be covered by the $US150 entry fee, but it won’t include things like food, which can be purchased at a replica Burger Town, a fast-food restaurant that appears in Modern Warfare 2, being built for the two-day venue. While Hirshberg couldn’t tell me how much a Burger Town Classic Burger would run gamers, the in-game price is a mere $US6.
The event will also be home to a Call of Duty armoury and museum, Activision said.
While the event is certainly geared toward the upcoming release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, in development by Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games, that doesn’t mean those who attend won’t see anything from previous games.
“Our primary focus will be on Modern Warfare 3,” Hirshberg said, “So Sledgehammer and Infinity Ward will definitely be there. But Treyarch (makers of Call of Duty: Black Ops), I’m sure, will have a big role too.”
Hirshberg even hinted that zombies, found only in Treyarch’s Call of Duty multiplayer modes, may be at the convention in some form as well.
“Our primary focus will be on Modern Warfare 3.”
Those who can’t make the event, miss out on tickets, or simply can’t afford to go will still be able to watch much of what is unveiled and shown at the convention online, Hirshberg said.
He said there will be a “free global digital experience for fans” that will include high production videos of key notes, panels, discussions and behind-the-scenes specials. Of course, none of that will match the experience of tapping a paintball into the helmet of a pal camping in the rusting wreckage of an aeroplane.
Call of Duty XP will be the first video game convention dedicated to a franchise that is not only real-world, but violent.
I asked Hirshberg if he was concerned that the upcoming event would be perceived as reveling in the violence of war.
“We are being very careful not to do that,” he said. “There wont’ be any real weapons there or anything that comes close to that. This will be very closely rooted to fantasy and the game experience itself.