"Call of Duty XP is going to be the ultimate fan experience for Call of Duty fans. A two day, immersive live event for fans of Call of Duty," Hirshberg told Joystiq. "We think it's going to set a new bar for experiential live fan-based events." That experience includes a first look at the multiplayer component of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the "full feature functionality" of the still opaque Call of Duty Elite online service, a $1 million CoD tournament sponsored by Activision and "lead sponsor" Xbox 360, and a handful of other big ticket opportunities.
"We are constructing a full-scale replica of one of our multiplayer maps as a paintball stadium for fans," Hirshberg said. "We're reconstructing the legendary level from Modern Warfare 2, The Pit, which fans can actually run." More interested in what you're going to be able to eat at an all-Call of Duty event? "You'll be able to eat at Burger Town from Modern Warfare 2," Hirshberg added, quite seriously.
How does one fill a two-day event with just Call of Duty? "We're going to have keynote speeches, press conferences, panels with all of the key developers, and the ability to get to the know the developers up close and personal," Hirshberg explained. "We don't have the full schedule of speeches, but it will be anything you want to know to get a behind-the-scenes look at the development process and the people responsible for creating the game and the franchise. Obviously we're going to shine a big spotlight on our developers at this event."
Unlike BlizzCon, Call of Duty XP will be focused on just one game; don't expect any other Activision properties to make an appearance here. "This is a pure experience to give back to the Call of Duty fan community," Hirshberg said. "It is completely focused on Call of Duty." But that doesn't mean the team at Activision didn't look for advice from Blizzard. Hirshberg told us, "We've learned everything we could from Blizzard with their experience with BlizzCon. They were very helpful giving us some of the cheat sheet and learnings from past experiences."
The event itself will cost far more to produce than the amount that we would receive in ticket prices anyway. - Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg 51
"More than 6,000" tickets will go on sale on July 19 for $150 each. Considering more than 25K people attended last year's BlizzCon, which still managed to sell out in minutes, not hours, the scale of the event seems conservative to us. "We wanted to have it be a size where everybody who's there has an A+ experience," Hirshberg explained. "We didn't want to create a situation where people were standing too long in line, or having an experience where we couldn't deliver an A+ experience for every single attendee." And at around 6,000 attendees at $150 a pop, Activision is raising less than $1 million. "The event itself will cost far more to produce than the amount that we would receive in ticket prices anyway," Hirshberg said. Regardless, 100 percent of the ticket sales will benefit the Call of Duty Endowment, the non-profit organization that Activision founded to help place veterans returning home into jobs. For Hirshberg, the event is not only about "raising money for a very good cause" but "it's also to give back to the fans."
With that few tickets available, having a solid online component to the event is paramount. "We can really reach out to millions of people if they're interested, millions of fans worldwide, who can feel like they're there," Hirshberg told us. "Obviously they won't be having the same experience as the people who are there, but it will be a pretty good approximation of the live event, experiencing it through social media, through constant updates, through interviews, through photos, it will be like you're there." Where there is is still a mystery. All the company would say is that it's at a 12-acre site in Los Angeles, but Hirshberg did provide some additional hints. "When you step into it, before we do a stitch of art direction or design to it, it feels like you've stepped into a scene from the game," Hirshberg teased.
The event will be two days long, on September 2 and 3, and Hirshberg says that prospective attendees will want to attend both days. "Every ticket will be good for both days and you won't want to miss either one of them." At the end of the second day, Hirshberg promised "AAA talent" would close out the show. "That will probably be worth the price of admission in and of itself," he said, noting that they weren't quite ready to reveal the talent just yet.
If you're interested in attending, you'll want to sign up at callofduty.com/xp and await further instructions. It remains to be seen if the Call of Duty community will appreciate a fan event like XP 2011 but when asked about the apparently obvious future installments, Hirshberg told us, "We'll have to see, but that's certainly how we're thinking about it now." While the idea of bringing one of the web's most toxic communities together in meat space is ... troubling, we're having a hard time being critical when the focus is split between fan service and charity. We'll see how well Activision pulls it all off this September.