Call of Duty XP makes a comeback, proving it was ahead of its time
In 2011, I went to LA to cover the first – and still for the moment only – Call of Duty XP. The event was massively ambitious, both in scope and physical size. It was also ahead of its time, which explains why it didn’t become an annual event.
Activision seems to think the time is right to try again, and it may be right.
Today, Activision announced that this September it is bringing back Call of Duty XP. The event will give fans the first chance to play the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare multiplayer in 6v6 matches, highlight the remastered Modern Warfare, show off the new Black Ops III DLC, offer fans a chance to try PlayStation VR, feature plenty of physical games, and host the finals of the 2016 Call of Duty Championship.
The original Call of Duty XP 2011 was wild. Activision rented out two former aircraft hangars that now serve as a soundstage for filmmakers, and packed them both. One was set aside for game stations – some offering various Modern Warfare 3 game modes, others older Call of Duty games – while the other was mostly reserved for presentations and concerts. The outside was also filled with things to do, including paintball, a zipline, an off-road tour, and more. This year’s event seems to be walking a similar path, but the headline event this time around will be the championship.
“Call of Duty XP is going to be the biggest Call of Duty fan celebration in history,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “The best Call of Duty players in the world will be front and center trying to win the first Call of Duty World League Championship at what is sure to be our biggest Esports event ever. Plus, fans will be able to see and play more hands-on content and reveals in one place than we’ve ever had, from Infinite Warfare, to Modern Warfare Remastered to Black Ops III DLC. Plus, there will be an off-the-charts list of Call of Duty inspired activities that you can’t experience anywhere else.”
Call of Duty XP 2016 will take place September 2-4 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA. The headline event of the show will be the Call of Duty World Championship Finals, and the year-long event will culminate with a $2 million prize purse. The e-sports finale will be streamed live, but attendees watch it in person. Between rounds, or maybe instead of it, attendees can also jump on the 500 game stations scattered around the Forum.
This will be the second Call of Duty XP event – but the first in five years – and it sounds like Activision is going all in on this one.
To put in perspective how big the first event – attended by a few thousands people – was, the opening night ended with Dropkick Murphys on stage for around two hours. The second night closed with Kanye West performing for over three hours.
Kanye freaking West. In front of a few thousand people at most.
On paper, it was an amazing and ridiculously over-the-top celebration of the biggest gaming franchise in the world, a franchise that at its peak set record after record with each new annual release. It wasn’t a question of if the new iteration would make a billion dollars, but rather how quickly. In practice, however, it had some issues.
As a member of the press, I couldn’t complain. Activision opened the doors to XP the day before the official event began, so we could try out (and cover) the new Modern Warfare 3. Everything after that was a bonus, and given that press paid no money – and got to see both Dropkick Murphys and Kanye – complaining would be petulant. The paying public, however, had good reason to be a little annoyed.
The problem was simply that there were too many people; the event was too popular. Lines were intense, and entire books were read while waiting. The idea for Call of Duty XP was great, the execution needed work. Consider it a prototype with plenty of bugs, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome.
Fast forward five years and Call of Duty XP returns. Unlike the previous attempt though, this event won’t be groundbreaking. Instead, it will be part of a growing movement to separate and celebrate an individual property.
More and more, publishers are creating events where the fans can come and meet other fans and spend a few days immersed in the games they love. Blizzard has BlizzCon, EA is sponsoring EA Play, CCP Games hosts Fanfest in Iceland every year, there’s the PlayStaiton Experience, and the list goes on. Even Twitch is getting in on the action with TwitchCon.
This isn’t just a fad, this is the future for some. Don’t be too surprised to see others like Ubisoft follow.
So if you are in Los Angeles September 2-4, and you are a fan of Call of Duty, check out Call of Duty XP. Ticket details are below:
Tickets for Call of Duty XP are available at three price levels and will go on sale at 10:00am Pacific on June 11:
- Enlisted Ticket: $49* – General Admission seating for three days of the Call of Duty World League Championship, Presented by PlayStation®4 and access to Call of Duty XP gameplay and activities
- Veteran Ticket: $129* – General Admission seating for three days of the Call of Duty World League Championship, Presented by PlayStation®4, access to Call of Duty XP gameplay and activities, the $80 digital Legacy edition of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and a Care Package with exclusive Call of Duty XP swag
- Prestige Ticket: $199* – Scheduled activities and gameplay, VIP line for activities and gameplay, Player Meet and Greets, access to the VIP lounge, parking pass, premium seating for the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare multiplayer reveal and Call of Duty World League Championship, Presented by PlayStation®4, a $100 Digital Deluxe version of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and a Care Package with exclusive Call of Duty XP swag