Call of Duty: Elite Will Offer Subscriptions, and That’s Okay

By  |  Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 10:39 am

Inevitably, Activision is creating a subscription service for its Call of Duty games, called Call of Duty: Elite. Also inevitably, some people are upset about that.

I fail to see the problem. Call of Duty: Elite is an added service, on top of the multiplayer action that Activision includes for free with its popular first-person shooters. It will let players create groups with other like-minded players . It will host tournaments, in which players can compete for real-world or in-game prizes. It will offer a stat-tracker for studying strategies. Users will be able to access Call of Duty: Elite through their web browsers and smartphones, and they’ll get a career record that tracks their progress from game to game.

Some of this stuff might cost money — Activision won’t specify which parts, or say how much premium membership will cost — and some will be free. Premium members will also get exclusive content and all-inclusive access to downloadable content that non-members must pay for.

This kind of service has been a long-time coming. In Call of Duty, Activision has created a player base in the millions, with no sign of decline, and these players will happily cough up money for more. When the first map pack for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 launched, with an above-average $15 price tag, it set sales records despite boycotts from a subset of players. I have no doubt that some players would agree to a monthly subscription fee if the perks were good enough.

And from what I can tell, Activision is doing this right. Call of Duty: Elite isn’t giving premium subscribers extra weapons or other unfair advantages, nor is it depriving players of the multiplayer services that are currently available. You might argue that Elite sets a bad precedent by charging for new features in the first place, but that’s just business.

Of course, Other publishers are free to create competing shooters with better non-premium features — I’m looking at you, EA — but so far no one’s been able to replicate Call of Duty’s rabid fanbase, who year after year will lap up every new addition to the franchise. That’s what makes a massive first-person shooter social network viable in the first place.

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