It’s getting to be that time of year when Activision starts teasing the next entry in Call of Duty, its blockbuster annual shooter franchise that keeps the lights on for the AAA industry. Eagle-eyed players in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 noticed a subtle addition to a few of its maps after a tiny, recent update, which appears to be the beginning of a viral campaign for the next game. All signs point toward Black Ops 3.
Certain posters on two maps in Black Ops 2 now have a mysterious ghost icon in the corner, cataloged in this video from YouTuber and CoD enthusiast Drift0r:
Dick pic enthusiasts probably recognize it as the Snapchat ghost, surrounded by a QR code. Scanning the code from the Snapchat app adds the Call of Duty account as a friend, presumably setting you up to receive cryptic videos and pictures leading up to the formal announcement.
So far the Call of Duty Snapchat has posted one video, showing a blinking eye, sunlight shining through trees in a forest, and a brief, final image of a lone pine tree on a snowy field, all while a voice-over says: “Listen only to the sound of my voice.” So far, so art school video project, but these images will probably acquire more meaning and context as the viral campaign continues.
— Nick (@Nipple_Nicholas) April 7, 2015
Traditionally, Activision does reveal the next Call of Duty around this time of year, launching the hype train in earnest at E3 in June. Following Sledgehammer’s Advanced Warfare last year and Infinity Ward’s Ghosts in 2013, Black Ops developer Treyarch is next in line to keep the franchise’s three-developer cycle going.
In the aftermath of the high-profile reveal of Silent Hills last year with the P.T. interactive teaser, conventional game announcements have become so passé. Square Enix, seeking to avoid this fate, is in the middle of a three-day interactive torture porn experiment that will likely culminate in revealing the next Deus Ex game. Microsoft and 343 Industries are also currently releasing an in-universe podcast series about the Master Chief in the lead-up to Halo 5: Guardians. What do you think: Are we at peak ARG pre-release marketing, or is this just the beginning?