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Special Project

Special Project
From the 8th Annual Shorty Awards

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Reveal - Transmedia Narrative Novella

Entered in Games


Business Goals:

Campaign Goals:


Strategy and Execution

Our strategy was simple: validate the new Black Ops 3 story at reveal by trickling out embedded assets to the core, seeding a reveal transmedia novella narrative that would ultimately unveil the new game's time period, protagonists, and future technologies of brain mapping and human augmentation.

Step 1: 1st ever in-game integration with Snapchat

Leveraging the fact that millions of fans still play Black Ops 2 today, Treyarch created the appearance of a hack into the maps of multiplayer maps, embedding Snapcodes into the game by hiding them in various in-game locations. Players that scanned the Snapcode while playing were taken directly to Call of Duty's Snapchat profile, where the first clues that revealed the theme of Black Ops 3, as well as the location of the transmedia novella. Within hours, the entire Call of Duty base were buzzing about the discovery, as well as decoding and dissecting its clues.

Step 2: Easter Eggs embedded in teaser trailers

If users blinked, they'd miss quick frames embedded into the trailers that gave breadcrumb clues into the Black Ops world in addition to each clip's mysterious footage.

Step 3: Secret URL and password

The team took everything a step further -- instead of simply revealing more about the game through clues, the campaign built a twist into the Easter Eggs by adding a hunt within a hunt. The clues began to lead to a secret Tumblr URL and revealed an embedded password that unlocked V.E.R.S.I.O.N, our transmedia novella full backstory to the game.

Step 4: 1st ever online, illustrated novella centered around a videogame - V.E.R.S.I.O.N

Teased with weeks of transmedia content and finally released on a custom Tumblr, fans binge-read and immersed themselves into the lore of the Black Ops universe with this original 150 page full-length novel. Given the time period of the game is 2065, we crafted a slick "UI"-like design for the book, with highly stylized illustrations that transported the reader into the time period of the game within the context of a more traditional written narrative. Equal parts transmedia, e-book, and illustrated novella, the piece felt pulled straight from 2065.

Narratively, V.E.R.S.I.O.N transported readers to Singapore in 2037 and Zurich in 2065 via an interactive 'artifact' from the world of Black Ops. Presented as a 'brain scan' of 2 separate, brand-new characters from those two time periods, the content is framed as a 'test' for these 2 characters' compatibility, complete with brain scan EKGs, metadata, a 3D relational database, and other medical scans. The written portions of the novella immersed readers into the new organizations, technologies, and global tensions that compose the vivid new future imagined in in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.


Biggest Entertainment Launch in 2015

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 exceeded $550million in sales worldwide in 3 days, making it the biggest game, movie or entertainment launch in 2015. On PlayStation 4, BO3 set a record as the best-selling digital full game by units sold in its first day in PS4 history.

Increase Time Spent

By driving interest and emotional connection for the story early on, engagement per player set a new record for the franchise. Fans played more than 75MM hours online in its opening three days.

Generate More Buzz than Previous Titles

This approach of empowering fans with reveal content made it the biggest Call of Duty announcement ever, reaching 1.3 billion impressions in 5 days.

Target Core to Authenticate the Story

The reveal could be more aptly named "the hunt" as everything was set up so that core players would discover, authenticate and disseminate news and clues within the community, pushing it to casual fans organically.

Create Authentic Content Without the Use of In-Game Assets

V.E.R.S.I.O.N. immersed fans into the Black Ops world without using in-game characters, assets or locations. Post release, the web was littered with press, blogs, reddits, and videos dissecting the novel, with one highly-credited blogger validating: "If Treyarch put this amount of effort into just the backstory, it leaves me with high hopes for the story of Black Ops 3".


Video for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Reveal - Transmedia Narrative Novella

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Armed Mind, Activision Blizzard; Treyarch


Entry Credits