If you’re a gamer who loves yourself some first-person shooting, then you probably didn’t miss last week’s news that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 appeared to be gearing up for an announcement at the 2011 Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, Cali. this week. A teaser website featuring a countdown timer in the Modern Warfare font popped up at findmakarov.com — the URL is a reference to the Russian villain of Modern Warfare 2 — at around the same time that news outlets started receiving packages contained mock-up dog tags bearing the names of characters from the Call of Duty games.
While there is indeed a Modern Warfare-inspired project in the works, G4’s Geoff Keighley has discovered that it has no official ties to the game’s publisher, Activision. The teaser was actually created by We Can Pretend, a Toronto-based “creative collective” that is working on a project “inspired by Call of Duty” that is supposed to launch on March 2, when the countdown ends. Keighley further notes that “production sources who worked on the self-funded project call it visually spectacular.” To be fair though, this is not a terribly surprising thing to hear from people who worked on and paid for it.
It had already been confirmed that Activision would be continuing its annual release schedule for the Call of Duty series with another one due at the end of this year. GDC is rather early to be making any announcement however, as the first reveals for past games have typically fallen around summer’s E3 industry trade show.
We Can Pretend’s tactics are certainly bold, and have no doubt caught Activision’s attention. The question is, will the publisher respond with a cease & desist, or instead wait to see what the reveal brings with an eye toward a potential business partnership. Such a move would not be unprecedented.
A fan developer recently put a big push behind his work porting classic Sierra Entertainment games like Space Quest to an iOS-supporting HTML5 format on Sarien.net. Activision, which owns the Sierra license, quickly responded with a cease & desist, but later allowed the site to come back online with more limited functionality and content, essentially serving as a free and fully playable browser-based advertisement for the publisher’s for-sale offerings of similar content.
The company also signed off on the for-free release of The Silver Lining, an unofficial fan-made sequel in the King’s Quest series. Moves like this only encourage fan developers like We Can Pretend, which seems to be the point. Not only is this free press for Activision, it’s also made for the fans by the fans. It is homage rather than content theft, self-funded development rather than piracy. There is literally no downside for the publisher, especially once it gets involved. You can bet that’s the attitude We Can Pretend is hoping for.