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Activision made a secret deal for gun product placement in Call of Duty

Agreement with Remington for 2009's Modern Warfare 2 comes to light after lawsuit against arms makers

Content warning: This article discusses violence towards children.

Activision made a secret deal with Remington to feature the arms maker's Adaptive Combat Rifle in 2009's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The paper said the deal was detailed in internal Remington documents that were obtained by legal counsel in discovery during a lawsuit filed by parents whose children were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

26 people, most of them first graders, were killed in that shooting. Remington, which made the AR-15 used in the attack, settled the suit last year for $73 million.

No money changed hands for the Call of Duty product placement, but Activision and Remington agreed to keep the agreement confidential.

The internal documents from Remington and the Freedom Group conglomerate it was a part of showed the arms makers trying to strike such deals to increase their appeal with younger audiences.

"With increasing urbanization and access to shooting/hunting areas in decline, a primary means for young potential shooters to come into contact with firearms and ammunition is through virtual gaming scenarios," one Freedom Group memo read.

Executives also talked about building brand preferences among "the next generation" and winning "our fair share of these young consumers."

A Freedom Group memo also noted that while the conglomerate wouldn't allow its brands to be used in games where the player could target "non-military bad guys," it was fine with replicas of its guns being in such titles.

"Previous experience tells us people will seek out the brands of the guns," the memo said. "A lack of direct branding helps to shield us from implications of a direct endorsement while still receiving benefit from inclusion in the game."

Former Remington VP of product management for firearms John C. Trull told the Journal that company executives were unaware of Call of Duty's multiplayer modes when it made the deal.

"The concept of online lobbies where players engaged each other in 'team deathmatches' was unfamiliar," Trull said. "I believe that if anyone had known then what we know now about how these games evolved, the decisions would have been different."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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