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Activision will debut its “surprise” TV commercial for developer Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II tonight during Monday Night Football on ESPN. Sherlock Holmes alums Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. re-teamed for the spot, which continues the theme, “There’s a soldier in all of us.” The new game ships November 13 for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Tim Ellis, chief marketing officer at Activision, said director Ritchie brings a strong emotion and raw energy to the Call of Duty ad.
“The visceral nature of his work and distinctiveness of style that he’s shown in the Sherlock Holmes movies and even Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a perfect match of how we look to build brand equity for Call of Duty,” said Ellis.
In the spot, which features a series of surprise guest appearances in the midst of futuristic warfare circa 2025, Downey Jr. quips, “Guess who brought a jet to a gun fight.”
Ellis said Activision had its sights set on Downey Jr. even before Ritchie signed on to direct, but securing the actor’s long-time friend and collaborator helped the entire process move faster.
“There’s a certain amount of trust involved in film actors and film directors doing commercial work,” said Ellis. “Because of the unparalled success of the first two campaigns going back to Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel two years ago and Jonah Hill and Sam Worthington last year, there’s a level of confidence and credibility that goes a long way to getting A-class Hollywood talent.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games’ Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sold 6.5 million copies and earned over $400 million in its first 24 hours last year. The record-breaking game went on to top $775 million in five days and beat Avatar to $1 billion by achieving that feat in just 16 days.
“There’s an incredible amount of pressure around getting a bank of pre-orders and generating a level of excitement when the first game is sold,” said Ellis. “Our live action spot is unleashed right before our launch and it encompasses the majority of our ad dollars. This commercial is key to having a successful launch.”
Almost half of all Call of Duty sales come from outside the U.S., which is one reason Activision targeted Ritchie and the international cache he brings to the table. The commercial also features cameos from global and online celebrities, including French actor Omar Sy (The Intouchables), and YouTube star Kyle Lamar Myers (FPSRussia).
“We’ve been able to carve out a cultural moment once a year every time we launch a new Call of Duty game and we’ve been incredibly blessed to attract the attention of the best film and commercial directors in the world, as well as actors who have never before done any type of commercials in their career,” said Ellis.
Treyarch has also enlisted Hollywood talent to work on the new Black Ops II game. The game’s story was written by David S. Goyer and it features full performance capture from actors like Sam Worthington, Tony Todd, Michael Rooker, James C. Burns and Kamar de los Reyes. The sequel sends players on a campaign that takes place in 2025 and features backstory missions set during the 1980s.
Michael Pachter, video game analyst at Wedbush Morgan, expects Activision to sell 20 million copies of the new Call of Duty: Black Ops II worldwide this year alone. The game will face off against a crowded holiday release schedule that includes Microsoft’s Halo 4, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed III and Electronic Arts’ Medal of Honor Warfighter.
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