Gamers Answer Activision’s ‘Call of Duty’

NEW YORK When “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” is released on Tuesday, some rabid fans of the video game franchise will see some of their handiwork in the final product.

Developer feedback was one of the fruits of a six-month-old social networking site, called Charlie Oscar Delta, Activision set up for fans to share thoughts on the franchise, interact with others and get the first scoop on new developments of the game. Over 500,000 registered since the site went live in late April with a teaser trailer on TV commercials directing viewers to Charlie Oscar Delta to see the rest.

The social site was set up by Activision agency Streetwise Concepts and Culture as way to build buzz around the release of the new installment of “Call of Duty,” a simulated war video game.

While “Call of Duty” fans have set up their own destinations and big game sites like GameSpot and IGN cover it, Activision sees an opportunity to create a fan hub.

“There’s not a central place for fans to go and interact with each other and interact with the brand,” said Tabitha Hayes, senior global brand manager at Activision. “We were looking for something that would create a central location to talk about the product.”

In order to draw rabid fans, Activision offered access to a multi-player test version of the game, a first for the company. It used feedback from the beta to perfect the final version. Activision also offered users access to some developers.

“They saw an opportunity that they could build and own the community for the long term as opposed to shotgunning information out to outlets they have no control over,” said Ryan Okum, president of Streetwise.

Digital media has created an opportunity for some brands to create their own channels to interact with fans. Nike has used this approach with Nike+, the social networking site it has used to connect with its running shoe customers.

Hayes said the use of social media does not replace the need for media, although it gives Activision more flexibility when determining its marketing budget. Charlie Oscar Delta was built, in large part, from budget that otherwise would have gone to event marketing and print ads, said Hayes.

While a community for “Call of Duty” can draw 500,000 and one for the movie Transformers can top 600,000, such fan-fueled destinations are not for every brand, Hayes said.

“If you don’t have a product people care about, it doesn’t matter what you do,” she said.