My name is Guy Incognito
This weekend sees the arrival of the first playable alpha for this year’s entry in the billion-dollar Call of Duty franchise, Call of Duty Vanguard. While pre-loads are available now on PlayStation platforms, those booting up the WWII shooter (such as the CoD insiders at Charlie Intel) have been left completely and utterly stumped as to which major publisher is bringing the new sequel to shelves, given the Vanguard‘s continued choice to forgo its publisher’s branding.
Of course, I’m being quite facetious. Call of Duty is, famously, the biggest brand in the portfolio of Activision — a simple fact that the company has remained proud of for over a decade now. However, in both the teaser trailer for Call of Duty Vanguard, the sequel’s pre-order page, and the title screen for the incoming alpha, Activision has chosen not to print its company name in any legible format — a very un-Activision move which the publisher described to Axios Gaming’s Stephen Tolito as a “creative choice“.
This has understandably led to much rolling of eyes within the industry. It doesn’t take a wealth of ponderance to come to the opinion that Activision — currently embroiled in an utterly miserable harassment and discrimination lawsuit via its subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment — is choosing to have its cake and eat it too. It’s vital to the publisher that its most lucrative release of the year is promoted, yet it remains aware that the company name currently carries deserved burden.
It’s not so much the action of not featuring the branding that raises my eyebrow, more the idea that we are all to believe, after decades of splattering its visage all over the Call of Duty franchise, that this was the year the creative decision was taken to remove Activision’s branding from marketing materials. In fact, one could argue that the choice has facilitated what’s commonly referred to as The Streisand Effect, ironically bringing even more attention to the situation than it would have had Activision just featured its typical branding ad nauseum. Some, of course, might go even further, suggesting that all attention is good attention, and thus this whole “creative decision” debacle is actually a gross-but-genius marketing ploy. We’re through the looking glass, people, etc.
In any regard, Call of Duty Vanguard will launch in November and it will sell gangbusters. That’s capitalism. And an inevitable truth regardless of whether Activision plasters its name on the marketing or not. Millions of dollars will come rolling in — that’s for sure — and the best that one can hope for is that Activision Blizzard will be held accountable for the accusations of its employees by the courts, ultimately creating a much safer, more respectful, and healthier work environment for the actual people responsible for tirelessly creating the very products that bring said millions in.