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Con.  It’s a word that conjures images of crowded convention centers filled to the brim with costumed attendees, each trying to out-geek those around them.  It’s also a word that in this day and age comes with a certain connotation:  You expect certain things going to a con.  You expect to be amazed, to be enlightened, and you expect to walk away with an experience that no one else could have. 

Perhaps that was why the word con is not in the name of this particular gathering.  Call of Duty XP was billed as an opportunity to live the Call of Duty experience, for two days to feel like you are one of the men inside the game.  Perhaps as an “experience” CoD XP was successful, but as a con it failed miserably on every level.

What went wrong then?  Why was it that this little event didn’t even dent the geek radar?  What could they have done differently to make this “experience” more meaningful?  In a word: logistics.


Anyone who’s thrown a party knows a great deal of planning is involved.  If it’s a big event, chances are you are spending six months to a year getting everything ready.  You have to choose a venue, hire a staff, build a guest list, book talent and vendors, and make sure that everyone is on the same page.  But before you do all that, you have to decide what kind of event you want to host.  Call of Duty XP looked like Activision’s attempt to throw their own BlizzCon, but do it in their own way.  A fan-centric convention like BlizzCon requires a unique blend of panels, reveals, and community experiences to pull it off.  Had the CoD XP folks merely copied BlizzCon and used that time-tested event as a template for their own, then things would have gone fine.  But they didn’t.  They decided they could do things better, better than the team that had been throwing the same event five times.  They thought they could reinvent the wheel, and they thought wrong.

Let’s look at what BlizzCon does that CoD XP did not:

  1. Major Announcements:  With every BlizzCon attendees know that they will have access to information about their favorite Blizzard franchise before anyone else.  It’s one of the prime reasons to attend the con in the first place.  CoD XP had the opportunity to do this, but failed on all fronts.  An Elite price announcement is not big enough to justify paying $150.00 for a ticket.  That’s press release fodder.  What they could have done to make this worthwhile is to reveal their next Call of Duty title.  We all know there’s a Black Ops 2 in the works, so why not show a teaser trailer?  Why not give the fans something special for being there?

  1. Behind-the-Scenes panels:  Every since 2005 when the first BlizzCon came to Anaheim, fans have flocked to the con knowing that they will get a chance to hear the developers talk about what went into making their favorite game.  In these panels you will also hear extensive unannounced information about upcoming Blizzard content.  What about CoD XP?  There were panels, evidently, but no where were we told about them.  I learned more about development on Modern Warfare 3 by standing in line for the goody bags on Friday and speaking to one of the developers (yes, they forced the devs to stand in line with attendees to get their swag). 
  2. Swag:  As soon as BlizzCon attendees pick up their badges they are given their goody bag.  It’s a two-fold process that enables all of the major logistics to be taken care of before the con even begins.  It also allows con attendees to take their swag bag back to their hotel or home and not have to tote it around the con all day.  With CoD XP goody bag handouts were an absolute mess.  While they promised that everyone would have a copy of the game who attended the con, they had no real handle on how to get these bags into the hands of the fans.  Lines wrapped the entire con space, and people routinely stood in line for an hour to get an item they should have been given with their ticket. 

  1. Playable stations:  BlizzCon is known for giving attendees access to the latest builds of Blizzard games.  While it is routine to have to stand around for an hour or more to get some playtime with your game, each line is orderly and designed to keep the flow of foot traffic available.  With CoD XP however, the venue itself – while interesting from a vibe point of view – was horrible for hosting an event where people need to stand in line to play games. 

Lines of people crisscrossed the one hangar where play stations were set up, while the second hangar was left largely empty the entire weekend.At several points during the event we were told to stand in completely different lines for the same thing, doubling both the time it took to play the games and the frustration levels for everyone involved.And that doesn’t even scratch the surface on the management of the play stations themselves.Rather than staggering play sessions to keep the lines moving, all the sessions seemed synced up in batches which meant huge wait times before people in line saw any movement in the queue at all. At an “experience” where all you have to do is paintball, a zipline, ride a jeep and play some games, there better be plenty of chances to play the game you love.We got to play MW3 twice, Spec Ops once, and the zombie run once -- and that was with being there for two days and standing in line pretty much the entire time.

I wish I could say this is a case of “first con blues,” but that doesn’t come close.  In this day and age when dozens of conventions are being held just in California alone, it’s criminal not to hire an event management staff who has experience with these things.  Just bringing a handful of people on board who had handled cons before would have made a huge difference.  Or they could, I dunno, talk to the folks over at Blizzard.  They own them after all.  Just one conversation about logistics would have turned the “experience” into a con worth remembering.


6 Comments for this post.
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Can I get a copy of that picture? lol

Anyways, yea it could've been a bit better in terms of organization but as far as a general overview, it was never advertised as a convention otherwise it would've been called the Con of Duty. Essentially, I find it to be the prestige edition of the game(which they don't intend to have one this time around like they usally do). You get the (currently) highest edition of the game which runs for $99.99 not $79 as I thought and a couple of free swag if you browse around (I tried for some but we were in a rush lol). Which leaves that extra $50 to do some cool things assuming you're willing to wait in line for it (which most CoD fans are). I guess if you're excited for something it is indeed a different experience.

Though, I will give BlizzCon this... The live entertainment picks are better lol.

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Major Nelson holding up a GameGeex card is absolutely the highlight of the convention for me. Sorry it was in front of your face, Ken!

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I, for one, couldn't stand the barkers. Dude, no one wants to play Black Ops when there's unreleased MW3 going on 20 feet away. Dude, the last game of the million dollar tournament is going on and I can't hear it because you're screeching into your microphone about who cares what. Dude.

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I once played in a Duke Nukem 3D tournament where the barker/MC was constantly estolling the virtues of sound awareness ... and wouldn't shut up long enough for any of us to listen for said sound cues.  I wanted to strangle him.

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Same here Art lol. I deem it acceptable because me and Major Nelson share that very rough bond that glows an aura of evilness..... or something like that.

And the Barkers were ok... but there were so many different MC for the various areas that it was definately hard to pay attention to one of em.

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That's such a good photo! Bwahahahaah!

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