The Money Train: CoD Elite Explained

By Alec Meer on May 31st, 2011 at 2:24 pm.

So after waiting a few hours to scowl at the Wall Street Journal for breaking the embargo, Activision have now officially taken the lid off Call of Duty: Elite, which means its actual features, rather than a pithy, video-based glossing-over of them, can be listed. Here’s the horse’s mouth breakdown of what the service actually entails.

Here you go:

* Connect: Call of Duty Elite gives players unprecedented control over their multiplayer experience, transforming it into a true social network. Players can compete against friends, players of similar skill levels and players with similar interests, join groups, join clans, and play in organized tournaments. They can also track the performance, progress and activity of their entire network, both in the game itself, as well as through mobile and web interfaces. Elite will be an “always on” way for players to connect with the Call of Duty community.

* Compete: Call of Duty Elite establishes the most exciting, competitive environment in a multiplayer game. Players will have available a constant stream of events and competitions, tiered to group them with those with similar abilities. Both in-game and real-world prizes will be rewarded to all skill levels.

* Improve: Call of Duty Elite is like having a personal online coach. It provides players with a dynamic strategy guide that tracks their statistics and performances down to the most minute details. It can show gamers how they stack up against their friends or others in the community. Tools and information are provided so players can learn and up their game.

A beta version of CoD Elite for Black Ops will launch this Summer, ahead of what I can only presume will be a full-on launch with Modern Warfare 3. Elite will span those and future CoDs, meaning you have something of a persistent profile from game to game – something that’s officially referred to as a Career, and which documents all your kills and habits and unlocks and whatnot. Big old willy-waving, basically, and analogous to something like Battle.Net.

So what’s free and what’s paid?

Many key features of Call of Duty Elite will be available to Call of Duty players free of charge. Additionally, for players who want to up their game, Call of Duty Elite will offer a premium membership with a wide range of state-of-the-art services, exclusive entertainment programming and all-inclusive game content for less than the cost of any comparable online entertainment service currently in the market.

As I understand it, much of the reward-based competitive stuff will also fall into this bracket. Nonetheless, it’s looking at this stage as though most of the primary features will be free, you won’t have to pay to play, but a sub does include any and all DLC. No final price has been revealed (best-guesses so far have it as $8 or less per month), which means it remains very hard to say whether it’s a reasonable/worthwhile deal or not.

A beta version of Call of Duty Elite launches for Black Ops later this Summer. You can request to be on said beta here.

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63 Comments »

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  1. pakoito says:

    a.- Pay a monthly fee
    b.- Play what you usually played for free
    c.- Pay for updates
    d.- Pay to get overpowered weapons and autowin your friends

    • FLBR says:

      e (one day).- Pay for – camo, headware, boots, different tread for boots, boot tread creation tools, insoles, different color insoles, insole creation tools, bullets, different color bullets, bullet creation tools, etc

      Also, lol >; “Improve: Call of Duty Elite is like having a personal online coach.”

    • DMStern says:

      Bad Company 2 already did the “pay for camo” bit.

    • Alexnader says:

      I think your cynicism is jumping the gun a bit here. Everything I’ve read so far makes CoD Elite out to be something pretty good. It seems like you can still play the game online for free and you have the option of paying for integrated clan competitions and whatnot. Honestly the second anyone mentions “extra fees” with regard to an FPS everyone freaks out. If Battlefield had this kind of social integration it’d be amazing. If you want a game to hate on then go for World Of Tanks. They charge you for the ability to play with friends!

      Aaaand my second post also goes to defending some kind of CoD thing… why couldn’t I have signed up earlier when nice stuff was happening?

    • MiniTrue says:

      Cynicism…CoD…cynicism…CoD…

      Nope, sorry, not quite seeing it. How many more iterations of exactly the same poor product do we have to sit through before being entitled to be “cynical”?

      On that note, maybe Final Fantasy XV will be AWESOME!

    • Alexnader says:

      That’s just it though. CoD Elite isn’t just the same product churned out again and again but is instead something fairly new. It’s not a game so don’t try to compare it to FF, try comparing to steam or something and you might get some cogent opinions about it.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      More like E) Buy weapons for the round with real money.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Kelron says:

    I don’t see the problem. Not interested in the game or the service myself, but it looks like it’s adding new features for free, then additional new features for those who wish to pay for them.

    • poop says:

      they are putting a paid subscription on things that every big competing fps does for free

    • Dominic White says:

      And countless people WILL buy it. Just last week, I accidentally stumbled upon a site that sells custom-modded 360 controllers for the Modern Warfare HARDCORE crowd, who need quick-reload macros actually built into the controller.

    • Unaco says:

      @poop

      Maybe because they intend to do it better than every other competing FPS. If it’s a worse deal than what people are getting currently, then people won’t go for it, they won’t pay their money for it, and it will fail.

    • TormDK says:

      Yeah, I don’t have a problem with this approach either.

      If it’s reasonabilly priced then whats the fuss? I’m not a huge COD Fan either, but if DICE made something similar for Battlefield 3 then I’d sign up faster than you could hum the Battlefield themesong.

    • poop says:

      it gives me bad vibes, much like all COD related news

    • tmargul says:

      @TormDK

      There is no reasonable price for this service. It is part of a product that players have already bought. It doesn’t do anything that shouldn’t be considered standard on a next gen FPS.

    • Hallgrim says:

      I’m on the COD and Kotick hatewagon as much as anyone, but I have to admit that these all sound like good things.

      If they are smart, Connect is free and Compete and Improve are 5$ a month.

    • mjig says:

      There’s always got to be the one shill who has been convinced that corporate greed is perfectly alright as long as it is “optional”.

    • cliffski says:

      I don’t get the ‘evil coporate greeeeeeeeeee333ddd’ bit at all.
      This is optional. if you don’t want it, don;’t buy it. I don’t play COD because the last Battlefield provides me with a better experience. The market decides.
      My local pizza hut offers garlic bread. I see it as an optional extra, which I don’t choose, but I’m sure most commenters would consider it corporate greed and something that should have shipped with the pizza for free…omgz

    • rayne117 says:

      @Unaco

      “Maybe because they intend to do it better than every other competing FPS. If it’s a worse deal than what people are getting currently, then people won’t go for it, they won’t pay their money for it, and it will fail.”

      You obviously don’t know CoDs’ market. They don’t use the same logic as you and I.

      Bungie.net does everything you see here 100 times better and completely free (there is a paid section, but it just gives you more storage, you get the same features whether you pay the $8 a year or whatever it is or not).

    • Mattressi says:

      Well Cliffski, it’s probably because it IS corporate greed. Kotick’s spoken before about an ‘untapped’ source of money – making people pay a subscription fee for multiplayer. I’m certain that Activision aren’t going under and I’m equally certain that they’re going to make significantly more money from this than they spent.

      This whole concept is almost certainly driven by the desire to make more money, rather than the desire to give players a better experience. To me, the whole thing is corporate greed, because they’re trying to push the limits further and further of how much people will pay for the smallest service.

      That’s not to say that I can blame them, nor do I consider them evil. Capitalism works on greed and that’s why it’s a great system – people are greedy, so the system which works off greed works well.

      It’s just a shame that there are so many idiots in the world who will buy into this simply because of the marketing. There’ll certainly be many who like the new features, but it’s undeniable that CoD’s huge success has been due to it’s marketing. Again, to me, placing marketing above making a good product is greedy, but it’s not evil. Just don’t try and gloss it over – they’re greedy, and it’s fine.

    • President Weasel says:

      Cliffski, your analogy is fine, until your local pizza place starts charging extra to have cheese on your pizza – and then the other large pizza chains follow suit, and suddenly the same pizza you’ve been eating all along is more expensive. The line between cheese and garlic bread might move, and that’s what worries normal people.

      On the other hand, some people think that buyable, entirely optional, hats in TF2 or patterns for your robot that only your co-op partner will ever see are signs of CORPORATE GREED EXPLOSION OH MY GOD THESE ARE THE END TIMES. However, just because internet comment threads are full of mental cases doesn’t mean there isn’t also some rational concern in there too.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nathan says:

      ” It is part of a product that players have already bought”

      No it isn’t. COD players know (should know) exactly what they’re buying. Anyone that buys a product expecting, what, all free DLC?

      Personally I don’t understand why there’s a problem with this: the purchase of product x does not grant some entitlement to a separate but related product y.

      Yes, other FPSs offer at least some of this for free; but that just means they have their own selling point to counter someone that’s using this as part of their revenue strategy (something which EA seems sure to do in some pseudo-ironic way).

      If some COD players get enough value from their gaming that they’re happy representing that personal value with money given to Activision, then more power to both them and Activision, I say.

    • Tatourmi says:

      “On the other hand, some people think that buyable, entirely optional, hats in TF2 or patterns for your robot that only your co-op partner will ever see are signs of CORPORATE GREED EXPLOSION OH MY GOD THESE ARE THE END TIMES. However, just because internet comment threads are full of mental cases doesn’t mean there isn’t also some rational concern in there too.”

      The point is not that they sell extras, it is the nature of these extras. Team Fortress 2 used to have a pretty damn good visual identity to me, now it is almost unplayable for me due to an overload of hats (And I know that this point is pretty personal, It ruined the coherence of the game for me). The original problem are the hats, the success of the hat business made them prolifer. It then created a whole and incredibly invasive “hat market” on every server, which is almost unavoidable, and began to make people play for different things, from teamplay to farming. This is what I think most people are concerned about. There was so much work done on TF2’s visual identity and then even more to destroy it, or change it to something that is unlikeable for me. I am not one to shout on every forum about this, actually I mentioned it only twice in my lifetime, this being the second time, but I think that dismissing any argument against the hat proliferation in TF2 with the two words “internet rage” is a little bit too much.

      (Oh, and the weapons also have a game changing aspect and I never liked unlocks in my competitive multiplayer games, but then again, that is just a matter of tastes)

    • Erd says:

      You gotta wonder how many paid advertising guys are out in their forums poster disguises spruiking this thing and putting out fires.

  3. poop says:

    i wonder if they are gonna start charging a subscription for battle.net seeing as how its activision, has all these features and ahs been free for years

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      I believe the Blizzard section is run separately with no pressure from Activision. I find Battlenet very very lacking in statistics (for example, I don’t believe you can even see your win/loss ratio any more on starcraft 2) and feedback on how to improve based upon those statistics. Not to say I am interested in this though. I wouldn’t buy any recent Call of Duty, and I’d be very very hard pushed to ever pay per month for a videogame, I’m yet to find one good enough to be worth it when Dwarf Fortress is free.

    • jealouspirate says:

      Battlenet 2.0 is still very new, and recently Blizzard has been testing the waters a bit with WoW, adding “premium” subscription features (Yes, that’s actually true, a subscription on top of your subscription).

      I don’t know if Battle.net will have a forced sub, but I would be very surprised if it didn’t come out with an “optional” subscription with added “features”.

  4. skinlo says:

    I hope they reduce the price of the full game to compensate.

  5. Conor says:

    I don’t know whether to laugh or be saddened that people will actually buy into it.

  6. McDan says:

    So for those on the poor xbox they can pay twice to play their games? Oh well, serves them right I suppose, they should have joined skynet (pc users) when they could have.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      I’m correct in believing they have to pay for xbox live as well, right? So they have to pay for the game, pay to get the game online, and then pay for the online content…… ouch

    • TormDK says:

      Whats the fuss anyhow? People spend their money on silly shit as it is :)

      10USD/month (5 for Xbox liv, 5 for this) isn’t going to bankrupt the people I know would be interested in this.

      As I noted above, if DICE did a similar move I’d sign up as soon as the option was there. I like what DICE has delivered in the past, and will continue to support them in a manner where possible.

      The same with THQ. You could start screaming about why Dawn of War 2 – Retribution Last Stand DLC is starting to get tossed out through Steam so fast, compared to game patches – But someone must be buying it so why not offer it?

  7. jealouspirate says:

    I really don’t care about CoD, but what does concern me is how this service’s success could impact future games I do care about. No doubt that this will be a successful move for Activision, which means more companies will follow suite.

  8. Wizlah says:

    enough of this sort of thing. I WANT THE FROZEN SYNAPSE WIT AND GENERAL RPS TALKATHON.

    DO IT.

    DO IT NOW.

    I WANT TO TALK ABOUT SATISFYING SHOTGUN SOUNDS, SMEARS OF BLOOD AND DEAD GREEN PEOPLE.

  9. YeOldeSnake says:

  10. GenBanks says:

    Battlefield 3.

  11. Mooglepies says:

    I play a lot of CoD but am entirely unconcerned by this. It looks like they’re keeping the free bits free and adding some of the stats tracking of their competitors, while also adding a subscription for some wider social-competitive stuff that also gives you access to any extra content they release. It’s not something I’d use myself (I tend to dislike subscription-based games) but I can’t see anything there I disagree with on principle.

    We live in the age of Facebook and Farmville, this should hardly surprise people. Also I was mildly amused by the video.

  12. killmachine says:

    hm. hypothetically… in january there is mappack dlc1. in february mappack dlc2… hm. right. i subscribe for february so i can have mappack dlc1+2. oh really? i dont think so.

    i guess map dlc will be a completeley different deal. so you have your subscription model for the elite thing and on top of that the regular dlc.

    we just doubled (trippled….) our profit, yay.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    I would like to buy a nuke for $5. Thank you very much!

  14. Tyshalle says:

    Yeah, I don’t really see the appeal here. I really dig the CoD multiplayer, I’ve already spent more time playing Black Ops than I have TF2, and I’ve played TF2 since the day it came out. But I can’t see what this service could possibly give us that other games don’t already make possible for free.

    I remember there being tons of websites for Battlefield 2, and I think even Bad Company 2 that had super detailed stats on your gameplay, which you could post in forums as your signature or something. I can’t imagine that whatever this Elite shit is is gonna be so much more spectacular than that that it’ll be worth paying anything for.

  15. Daave says:

    Will you have to own the game to play? If not I’d be tempted to pay for a couple of months then move on after I got bored. I really don’t want to pay £30 for their (mediocre) single player then feel like I’m missing out unless I pay a monthly fee for the multiplayer.

    On the flip side, if the content matches the money input then it could be worth it…

    • Kaira- says:

      If I’ve understood correctly, yes, you need to own the game, but you aren’t forced to pay for multiplayer. So, you can play multiplayer for free.

  16. mbp says:

    I am going to stick my neck out and call this a bad move on Activision’s part.

    In the mmorpg world many games that used to charge a subscription have moved towards a cash shop model. For all but the most successful games cash shops seem to bring in more revenue and hold onto more players. Valve has gone the cash shop route with Team Fortress 2 while Activision seems to be taking a step backwards by adding a subscription to CoD.

  17. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. says:

    No thanks.

  18. whateverJ says:

    If the competition stuff is any good, this will be great. Looking forward to see some semi-serious leagues for COD. The statistics seem more detailed than any other offering, especially what seem to be personal heatmaps. The social groups seem a bit redundant and misplaced, though.

    Would be nice if this came free but other people are paying for MMOs. If the price tag means it will be ad-free I could see shelling out a few bucks for this.

  19. sneetch says:

    Up my game, you say? With state of the art services, you say? For a premium, you say? Hmmmm… no thanks, my game is fine right where it is. Personally, I’d rather a single payment for my map packs than paying $8 a month to access them (not that I’ve bought maps), I think match casts of CoD tend to be a bit dull and I’m long past being able to compete (or indeed being interested in competing) at anything like a “pro” level so I’m out, Dragon’s-Den style.

    I’ll be curious to see their subscriber numbers for this six months after launch, unless their competitive stuff is damn enticing, I reckon they’ll plummet, I can see a lot of clan players saying “so it’s free if we organise our clan stuff outside the system like we’ve been doing all along? Free sounds good”.

    What “comparable online entertainment service” are they talking about costing less than? I’m curious as the only “comparable online entertainment services” I can think of are free.

  20. Wodge says:

    This is truly splendid.

    In particular I like the way how I won’t feel like I’m being stung for 5 paltry maps as they’ll already have my payment details on record.

    I bet EA are pleased too, as this will no doubt make up the minds of people who were deciding between MW3 and BF3.

    EA, you’ve got my cash, this time.

  21. DeanLearner says:

    I hope I can get horse armour.

  22. Premium User Badge

    cairbre says:

    Well let those who want to pay pay personally I wont be buying this ‘elite’ service just like I wont be paying for farmville stuff either. Anyway tbh I dont think I am ever going to by anything call of duty again so I guess I am not their target market. I really loved COD4MW multiplayer but since then its been all down hill.

  23. rocketman71 says:

    “Call of Duty Elite gives players unprecedented control over their multiplayer experience”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    Control?. Are they going to give us back LAN support?. Dedicated server files?. Modding?. Nope?. The only control here is the one Kotick wants over our wallets, then.

    Hey, Bobby, honey, I’m going to buy a VERY big wallet just so you can shove it up there. Empty, of course.

  24. 7thpitbull says:

    Hey CoD4 and MW2 were great imo. But this is a bad move for Activision. But what Steam and PC Gamer have also found out that they are planning to lockout all COD4 & COD6 servers…they are of coarse privately owned . If you do your homework you will see that for all CoD games if you want to retain your stats or current rank you have no choice but to subscribe. If you want to rank up you have to subscribe.
    “Optional” ????? Doesn’t sound like much of an option. Oh and if you check Pc Gamer’s forums you can get more info on the subject.

  25. AoM_AJER says:

    “for less than the cost of any comparable online entertainment service currently in the market”

    Ummm, Activision, have you forgotten about a lovely little service provided free of charge to everybody called bungie.net?