Activision Blizzard today held a conference call with investors and analysts to review its most recent quarterly earnings report. The latter half of the call consisted of the usual Q&A portion, during which the company’s executives were asked about the high number of YouTube dislikes that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s reveal trailer has amassed. The response was nothing short of masterful.
If you haven’t been keeping an eye on it, the trailer above currently has more than 370,000 dislikes or thumbs down on YouTube, roughly twice the number of likes it has received. Whether that’s due to the series continuing to be set in the future (as opposed to the modern-day setting that helped to popularize it), a general dislike of the franchise from a vocal group, or something else is impossible to say. Whatever caused it, Activision found a way to make it sound like a positive.
“First of all, you’ve gotta love the passion of gamers,” Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, said when asked about the trailer’s dislikes. “This is an industry like no other, and a fan base like no other, and we love that our fans treat this franchise like it’s their own and has such strong points of view about it. There just aren’t many entertainment franchises on Earth that can generate the kind of passion that Call of Duty can. That’s a good thing.
“Secondly, of course we know that there are people in our community who are nostalgic for the boots-on-the-ground style gameplay, and that’s why we made Modern Warfare Remastered. But we also have millions of people in our community who want to have new, innovative experiences in the game each year, and Infinite Warfare delivers that. And the good news is, this year we found a way to deliver both in one package while keeping our community together. “
Hirshberg went on to say other evidence suggests the dislikes aren’t evidence that sales for Call of Duty are finally set to fall off a cliff this year.
“And while of course we see the passionate opinions online, we also look at other measurements and the fact is, while it’s very early, preorders are off to a very strong start, views of the reveal trailer you referred to are up, and in fact the number of likes-per-view on the Infinite Warfare reveal trailer are also the highest we’ve ever seen,” he said.
This also isn’t the first time something like this has happened.
“We’ve seen this in the franchise before; the reveal trailer for Black Ops II, which took the franchise into the future for the first time, had the most dislikes of any reveal trailer we had ever made at that time, and that of course went on to become our most successful game ever,” he continued. “And right now, the franchise has never been stronger. We have more people playing Black Ops III–a game that takes place in the future with boost jumps and futuristic weapons and all the rest–than any game in our history. So what we know for sure is that if we always just did what worked in the past and never took any creative risks, we wouldn’t have a franchise. The day to worry is the day we stop trying new things.”
And while he didn’t mention it, a group of PC players famously announced their intention to boycott the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 due to the lack of dedicated server support. Despite this, Modern Warfare 2 set records–it was best-selling Call of Duty on PC at that point–and an image made the rounds showing that most members of the boycott group were playing the game anyway.
Hirshberg’s response isn’t unique. As a publicly traded company, Activision can’t lie to its investors, but like any other company, it tries to spin negatives into positives all the time. It’s just uncommon that it’s done quite so well, and with such a solid underlying point: Call of Duty isn’t going anywhere, YouTube dislikes or not.