“Call of Duty Presents…”
“A Sledgehammer Games Production…”
Today’s reveal trailer for Call of Duty: Vanguard avoided drawing any attention to its publisher, Activision, by putting the branding focus on the Call of Duty franchise and the studio behind the game. It doesn’t even have the Activision logo on the trailer’s title card splash screen. It only shows the logos for Call of Duty: Vanguard developer Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch (who is handling the Zombies mode), and Beenox (devs behind the PC port). The only mention of Activision is in microscopic fine print denoting the Call of Duty trademark on this same screen.
This small detail was noticed by VGC, and it coincides with the California lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for a discriminatory “frat boy” culture. While it’s certainly an assumption, it’s easy to infer that Activision might be trying to distance its current reputation from a game that analysts expect to be the best-selling game of the year.
The opening crawl declaring “Call of Duty Presents…” and “A Sledgehammer Games Production…” doesn’t seem to be part of this. Going back a couple of years, neither Modern Warfare nor Black Ops Cold War’s reveals used any intro text at all, so the fact that they are even used here feels like a stylistic creative choice meant to highlight Sledgehammer as a developer and its new piece of Call of Duty as a franchise, rather than specifically to mask over Activision.
However, it gets a bit more interesting when we look at the previous reveals’ title cards, which included an Activision logo. Normally, Activision had its logo in the bottom left while the developer(s) were shown in the bottom right. For Vanguard, Sledgehammer’s new logo takes that bottom left spot, with Treyarch and Beenox (who, despite developing past games’ PC ports, hasn’t been present on those title cards) taking the spot to the right.
It’s s a small detail that could mean nothing, but Activision Blizzard is currently reckoning with a large lawsuit and outspoken employees who are pushing for change within the company’s culture. With Call of Duty being not just the publisher’s most successful franchise, but perhaps the most successful franchise in gaming, it’s curious to see Activision getting out of the way of the reveal and release of Vanguard, which one could assume would be to prevent the marketing of this year’s Call of Duty from getting mixed up in the negative publicity that has been levied at the company thanks to the lawsuit, allegations, and employees calling on the executive team for more accountability and action.
Still, at developer Sledgehammer Games, the team is thrilled to finally have announced this project and can’t wait to reveal more about it, even as those very same people vocally call on Activision executives for change. Putting the “ownership” of the game in the developers’ hands from a marketing perspective is a great way to highlight the work being done by the very employees who are fighting for change and a safer, more equal workplace.