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Internal memo reveals bullish Activision

Hirschberg says CoD will not suffer fate of Guitar Hero

An internal Activision memo from CEO Eric Hirschberg has shed light on the publisher's strength of belief in flagship series Call of Duty, the steady growth of which Hirschberg takes as a sign of continued longevity.

Two memos were leaked to US gaming site Giant Bomb; one from Hirschberg and another, as yet unpublished, from somebody else in the company. Hirschberg's memo takes the form of a Q&A, with one of the first questions on the list asking: "Isn't Call of Duty today just like Guitar Hero was a few years back?"

"This is a great question and one we have thought about a lot," Hirshberg replies in the February memo. "But there are several key differences between the two franchises worth considering. Guitar Hero quickly reached incredible heights, but then began a steady decline. Call of Duty, on the other hand, has steadily grown every single year of its seven-year existence."

Call of Duty has certainly seen sustained growth since 2004, but it was Modern Warfare which really kicked the series into high gear, culminating in Black Ops 5.6 million day-one sales across the US and UK. One of the major factors in securing, and maintaining , that audience, says Hirschberg, is the online community.

"Guitar Hero was a new genre which had incredible appeal, but which had not stood the test of time," Hirschberg writes. "Call of Duty exists in a genre - first person shooters - that has shown remarkable staying power and wide appeal over a period of decades. Plus, Call of Duty has inspired a massive, persistent, online community of players, making it perhaps the 'stickiest' game of all time."

But the golden goose will not feed itself. Hirschberg is keen to highlight the dangers of complacency, warning that, without innovation, Call of Duty could easily stagnate and falter. That innovation, he says, is something not in short supply at the publisher, but is not something which is always given proper recognition.

"If you really step back and dispassionately look at any measurement - sales, player engagement, hours of online play, performance of DLC - you can absolutely conclude that the potential for this franchise has never been greater.

"In order to achieve this potential, we need to focus: on making games that constantly raise the quality bar; on staying ahead of the innovation curve; on surrounding the brand with a suite of services and an online community that makes our fans never want to leave. Entertainment franchises with staying power are rare. But Call of Duty shows all of the signs of being able to be one of them. It's up to us.

"Activision doesn't always seem to get the credit it deserves in terms of innovation in my opinion, but there is no short supply of it, even in our narrower slate.

"As I said, when you look at this list of projects and the innovations embedded within them, it is a pipeline any company would kill for."

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