The latest installment to the “Call of Duty” franchise shot its way into stores this past Tuesday. The aptly titled “Call of Duty: Ghosts” features a cinematic quality video game experience complete with deep space gunfights and under-water fish harpooning. Set in a post apocalyptic future and written by the Oscar winning screenwriter behind “Traffic,” “Ghosts” is the closest the average Joe will ever get to being in a big-budget action blockbuster. On second thought, when the title debuts on the next-gen consoles PS4 and Xbox One later this month, that will be the next best thing to inexplicably being sucked into a motion picture. In any case, Activision—the distributor behind the first person shooter—has released plenty of ads relating this idea to the masses. Featuring generous budgets, and abundant A-list Hollywood talent, these short commercials are bringing the video game world to Hollywood’s doorstep like never before.
But this isn’t the first time Activision has incorporated Academy Award caliber filmmakers into their marketing tactics. They’ve been doing it for years. Here are the powerhouse celebrities that have helped bridge the gap between video game and motion picture, and allowed “Call of Duty” to become incredibly profitable in the process.
“The Vet and The n00b”
Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Jonah Hill and Sam Worthington
Developed by LA based Ad Agency 72andSunny, this clip assisted in ushering in the launch campaign for Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3”. The result is a 90-second tour-de-force called “The Vet and the n00b.” It stars “Superbad’s” Jonah Hill and “Avatar’s” Sam Worthington as two machine gun totting soldiers. Hill, as the title suggests, is new to the Call of Duty world, while Worthington is an expert. The guns-blazing live action ad is complete with multi-city sequences orchestrated by three visual effects companies, with two A-List stars toting the weapons. “Hancock” director Peter Berg lends his action directing knowledge to the product, but also leaves room for Hill to play up the humor of the situation. The trailer premiered on November 6, 2011 and when the game hit store shelves later in the year, sold 6.5 million copies in its first 24 hours.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr.
“Sherlock Holmes” alums Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. re-teamed for this “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” spot that originally aired during Monday Night Football back in 2012. Under the theme, “There’s a soldier in all of us,” the ad features plenty of surprise guest appearances in the midst of a futuristic battle circa 2025. Downey Jr. appears in a fighter jet and quips, “Guess who brought a jet to a gun fight.” This one-liner is pure Ritchie style directing, as the British auteur has made a career out of offbeat darkly comedic dramas. This clip could quite possibly be the most rewarding 80 seconds either celebrity has ever made, however. Activision reported sales figures for “Black Ops II” in the U.S. being more than 7.5 million copies sold on launch day. That translates to a cume of over $500 million. And that was just the numbers for the US alone in its first 24 hours.
“Epic Night Out”
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Megan Fox
Former “Transformers” star Megan Fox might not know what “Call of Duty” even is, but that doesn’t stop her from popping up in the latest spot for “Ghosts.” Playing a sexy sharpshooter, the ad first appeared online on November 5th. In the commercial, four friends journey into a bombed out vision of Las Vegas, and cause havoc while Frank Sinatra‘s “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die” plays in the background. “The Wolverine” director James Mangold handles behind the camera duties, and crafts a ridiculously entertaining clip that—in the words of Fox news writer Adam Shaw—“is a testimony to the outrageous popularity of the military simulator “Call of Duty” franchise that launched back in 2003.” According to Deadline, the title made over $1 billion in sales on its opening day, and is poised to make even more money when the title releases on November 15th and 22nd for the PS4 and Xbox One respectively.
As the “Call of Duty” franchise continues to sell faster than Twitter stock, I am already looking forward to seeing what A-listers Activision brings to fans for their next release.
By David Morris