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

New Media
Online Advertising

Armed Mind (USA)

Project Title: Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Reveal – Transmedia Narrative Novella
Client or Class Name: Activision Blizzard -

Strategy and Implementation

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

Generate More Buzz than Previous Titles  

This unique 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 the core players would discover, authenticate and disseminate the news and clues within the community, ultimately pushing it to casual fans worldwide organically.

 Create Authentic Content Without the Use of In-Game Assets 

V.E.R.S.I.O.N. immersed fans into the authentic Black Ops world without using any in-game characters, assets or locations. Post release, the web was littered with press, blogs, reddits, and videos dissecting the novel. The best result might’ve been when a highly credited blogger validated “If Treyarch put this amount of effort into just the backstory, it leaves me with high hopes for the story of Black Ops 3”.

2016 Online Advertising Campaign Design Award Winner
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Creative Team

Armed Mind:
Michael Rudin

Armed Mind:
Alex DiGiacinto

Armed Mind:
Dan Martin

Armed Mind:
Brian Oliu

Armed Mind:
Jackie Ling

On behalf of Armed Mind - Special Thanks:
Dr. Baxter Allen

John Rafacz

Craig Houston

Jason Blundell

Activision Blizzard:
Matthew Cox


2016 Online Advertising Campaign Design Award Winner 2016 Online Advertising Campaign Design Award Winner


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