Fans Solve First Part of Call of Duty ARG That Begins to Tease the Next Game, Black Ops Cold War

The first steps are complete! Teases this weekend indicated today would be a big day as Call of Duty streamers and members of the games media began receiving black crates with instructions to text for a special code to open the padlock earlier today. Now that the crates are opened, an alternate reality game (ARG) has been uncovered, a massive puzzle for the community to solve together that in theory will reveal the next Call of Duty game. The first part of that puzzle has been solved, leading to a website which will potentially unlock the next steps later this week.

After years of Call of Duty doing the same old thing with reveal and release year after year, Activision decided to try something a little bit new and different in 2020. Whether owing to the pandemic, Warzone’s release, or a bit of both, Call of Duty 2020 missed what would have usually been a spring reveal as Activision focused on the enormous success that is the free to play Warzone. As is tradition with Call of Duty, a number of leaks and rumors have pointed at the next game being Black Ops Cold War, a Black Ops reboot by Treyarch that supposedly takes the sub-franchise back to its roots.

Inside the black crates that were sent to streamers were projectors—legit old 1950s-era projectors complete with dust, faded peeling letters, and that “antique” smell—and a number of slides. The slides were different for each person who received a crate. You can take a look at our projector and slides in this Twitter thread:

Streamer NoahJ456 took lead on the puzzle as the community rallied around him and other influencers to figure out how to solve it. He briefly detailed the steps taken to figure out the solution:

Basically the slides led players back to Black Ops 4, where one of the game’s maps, Summit, had been recently updated with images similar to those on the slides. Using the slide images and letter ciphers further gave players the messsage “Bish, you were here,” the name of a famous 1972 Cold War-era chess match which took place between Boris Spassky (Russia) and Robert James Fischer (US). Analyzing the moves of this match along with clues from a Treyarch Instagram story revealed the site PawnTakesPawn.com, which is where the ARG stops for now.

PawnTakesPawn features an old TV, phone, pawn chess piece, and some kind of electronic equipment (VCR or earlier iteration of the tech), which flashes “08- 14,” presumably meaning August 14th, which is this Friday. It then flashes 12:00, which is presumed to mean noon EST on that day, matching with when recipients of the black crates could text for the padlock combinations earlier today. So at 12 EST on August 14th, we expect something to happen on PawnTakesPawn, probably a video, given the embedded video player found within the site’s metadata.

However, don’t expect the full Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War reveal trailer on Friday. NoahJ456 confirmed with Activision that this is just step one of this puzzle and the video the PawnTakesPawn site will show should kick off the next steps of the ARG, so we may need to pull out those projectors once again.

Here’s something even more curious. That same TV and VCR seen on PawnTakesPawn has been added to various houses in the Warzone Verdansk map when Season Five launched last week. I noticed them personally when playing the other day and thought it was a curiously odd addition/change to these houses. Season Five theming has largely centered around chess pieces as well, which ties heavily into the teases taking place here.

It seems that some pieces of the next steps may have been uncovered already, including elements that tie directly into Warzone’s secret bunkers, specifically the ones that have been inaccessible up until now. Previously glitching into these bunkers found elevators, and some of the messages seem to spell out the letters “ELEV” on the slides. However it looks like things are going to be quiet for now until the puzzle picks back up again at the end of the week.

Warzone Season Five is supposed to feature a big “Mid-Season Event,” and judging by the season countdown timer that puts the end of the Season on September 28th, the mid-season event should take place around the end of August or beginning of September. If and how the ARG will tie directly into Warzone and that event remain to be seen, but this massive puzzle certainly has the Call of Duty community buzzing, especially the zombies crowd who has loved these types of deep puzzles Treyarch has always built into its games. See you all Friday!