Call of Duty: Black Ops enlists casual gamers

If someone calls in sick today it may be because they have a cold. However, it may actually be more likely that they are re-enacting the Cold War at home.

Today marks the much-anticipated launch of Call Of Duty: Black Ops, the latest installment in a franchise that has grossed $4B.  Die hard fans of the game across the globe have been queuing for the midnight release of the title in anticipation of annihilating people across Cuba, Russia and Vietnam war-zones as Special Forces operative Alex Mason.

Despite some depleted sales (year-on-year revenues were down 8% to $1.2B in September) video gaming is still big business, with the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) stating that gaming brought in $5B to the US economy in 2009.

Call of Duty has been a runway success, and its undeniable popularity will wipe most other games off the sales floor in the run up to Christmas. 'Fallout New Vegas', 'Star Wars Force Unleashed II', 'Fable III', and – lesser war title - 'Medal of Honour', all made sure they got onto the shelves a few weeks before the release of Black Ops for this very reason.

What is particularly interesting with the release of the new title is not the hardcore fans - of which there are many – but the drive by the brand to engage casual gamers.

A new commercial, with a soundtrack by the Rolling Stones, sees everyone from burger bar workers to suited businessmen charging around an explosion filled war-zone as they do battle against each other.  It’s an empowering commercial, which apart from its unintentional commentary on the desensitization of war through games, is also a rallying cry for the casual social gamer to move to console based game play.

It’s a smart move. There are 200M people playing casual games on Facebook, but most of these are farming as opposed to tooling up for a dawn raid on some distant shore. Activision knows this, so why play to the converted in ads, and instead has opted to appeal to the ‘gamer in everyone’ with its ‘There’s a Soldier in All of Us’ messaging that invites all comers to take up arms.

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