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This post was originally written November 4, 2014


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What makes a successful gaming launch?


On November 3, Activision pre-released the newest installment of “Call of Duty®: Advanced Warfare,” with much success (and double XP!). And with all those beautifully detailed graphics, it’s no wonder this 46 GB behemoth has taken off on its official international release today.


Whether it’s a blockbuster game or the next big thing, there is always something to learn from those that do it successfully. “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” (CoD:AW) employs several tactics and strategies that make for an effective game launch. Below are five things that Activision did right with this release, but any size game studio or publisher can learn from.


1. New Title + DLC for continuous play:

Advanced Warfare is not only the newest title release of the Call of Duty series, (preceded by the underwhelming Ghosts release in 2013), but it differs from its predecessors by taking gamers on a divergent journey in a futuristic world heavy on sci-fi themed features. Developed solely by Sledgehammer Games, (you may remember them as a co-developer from Modern Warfare 3), this release includes cool new features such as the highly praised exoskeleton suit, new maps, and several new weapons with mix and match options.


Although it is a completely new title with a new journey, the upgrades and DLC within the game have transformed an already successful title. Activision can successfully maintain the interest of die-hard fans, while garnering interest from new gamers—for example, the new virtual firing range provides a safe space to practice new weapons, while the Combat Readiness Program engages new gamers, while also blocking out advanced players whose skill level may discourage newcomers. To adapt to the modern gamer’s expectations, there are endless possibilities to keep gamers coming back for more multi-player action, even after completing the single-player campaign.

What’s more is there will be DLC available for purchase in 2015 to boost interest after the holiday season and consistently engage gamers.


2. Multi-Channel Promotion Strategy:

A game of this size and hype does merit a significant amount of promotion. While not all games will be able to recruit the likes of Kevin Spacey or launch a full-scale television advertising campaign, there is something to learn from the CoD:AW strategy:


  • Using video, the ads themselves showcase the remarkable quality of the game while simultaneously generating hype over the new storyline and action capabilities.
  • CoD:AW also does an excellent job spanning multiple channels for promotion, via television, paid YouTube advertisements, and an online video player that delivers HD quality content on a microsite.
  • And while we’re at it, let’s talk about their fantastic microsite. Gamers won’t have to navigate through other sites and sub-menus to find what they’re looking for. The site is dedicated to hardcore gamers to chat in forums, view videos and photos, or purchase season passes and special editions. All backed by a content delivery network to make sure the site is easily and quickly accessible worldwide.
  • Finally, there is a companion smartphone app to make sure gamers are always connected to their clans. While the full scope of the app doesn’t seem to include a mobile version of the game, it does create and manage clans and clan wars. The hardcore CoD:AW gamer will always be just a touch screen away from the brand.

3. Responsive Support Team:

Although the pre-release initially saw some bugs that prevented downloads a responsive support team quickly identified and fixed the issues for the main launch. While the pre-release was a day early for those who preordered the game, it proved to be a great way to test and resolve any bugs before the official launch date.

While beta testing and pre-releases may not always be an option, a game release should be treated as an event. As such, it requires 24/7 technical attention in those first few days to quickly send out patches and keep gamers satisfied. Nothing ruins the bliss of getting that new game like an issue that prevents users from downloading it! While mistakes and glitches happen, it’s important to prepare for the worst.


4. Global Distribution:

Gamers are everywhere. Being prepared to release your game to a global digital audience rather than just regionally is no longer an option, it is essential. Distributing games, like CoD:AW, via popular consoles and online stores can solve the delivery problem, but it doesn’t address the rest of the game experience—like making sure your videos are available world-wide, on any device, and your microsite is super fast and responsive.


Not only did the game reach a geographically global audience, it catered to their multiplatform tastes. CoD:AW is available for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, and PC.


5. And Zombies…

Literally, everything in CoD:AW turns into a zombie. Fun, right? Maybe zombies don’t fit into every gaming world, but it is important to note the power of capitalizing on pop culture trends. In 2015, Gamers can pay for the $50 DLC Season Pass to experience the beloved Zombie mode from past CoD titles, as well as other expansions, or $15 on its own. Hey, if it works, it works. And Zombies work. Think we’re kidding? Zombies have enjoyed a tenfold increase in popularity on Google since 2005—bottom-line proof that there is no shortage of clever monetization strategies available to game developers and publishers.