Very Modern Warfare: Thoughts On CoD Elite

By Alec Meer on May 31st, 2011 at 2:56 pm.

NERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRDS

It was always going to happen, and now it has. The nature of a corporation is never to sit still and be content with its lot – it’s to forever look to ways to make more money from what it has. (If RPS had a scrap of sense, we’d have launched a couple of spin-offs by now, but a corporation we are not). Activision was never going to let the world’s biggest gaming franchise stay the same size – its duty to its shareholders, and to a far less extent to its employees, is to make its IP as profitable as possible. With several of its divisions and titles recently axed and even WoW subscriptions in decline (by an apparently tiny 5%, but the difference between revenues increasing and revenues decreasing is a fundamental one for shareholder confidence), the publisher is almost required to milk a little more out of its remaining cashcows. On the one hand, you can’t blame them for introducing Call of Duty: Elite, a premium subscription service (though its basic features are free) which adds various community and content goodies to its shooter series’ frighteningly popular multiplayer mode.

On the other hand, it’s hard to not to feel a little dirty about Elite, isn’t it?

Call of Duty already isn’t a million miles from being a subscription game, at least in terms of multiplayer – every November you cough up another $60 for a few new weapons, features, maps and a ridiculously overblown but relatively brief and heavily scripted singleplayer experience, but essentially continue having the same experience year after year. (That’s before you factor in the Xbox Live sub, if that’s your preferred platform for the game). If the Elite fee is to be, as hinted, around $8, that means you’ll be spending some $156 a year on Call of Duty if you want the complete package, to ensure you’re getting all the Call of Duty there is, and keeping up with whatever Joneses most matter to you. This is, clearly, quite a lot of money. You could buy around five other new release, big name games for the same sum, but clearly that’s exactly what Activision wants to dissuade you from doing. Give all your money to CoD. Give yourself to CoD. Play only CoD. There are no other games. Nothing else matters. Shoot the men. Shoot all the men. Shoot them all the time.

What remains to be seen is whether the service gives out enough on top of the free elements to make enough people pay. Given recent CODs have sold tens of millions of copies, only a very small percentage of players need fork out for Elite for it to bring in an eyewatering amount of cash, so at a total blind guess I imagine Activision aren’t going to push the boat out all that far. With a userbase that huge, they don’t need this to be an immense success – they only need it to be a small success. Today’s web-wide calls of “there’s no way I’m going to pay for this” may well not be bothering anyone in the slightest. Moreover, the promise that the subscription will include all the paid DLC as part and and parcel will probably have more than a few people convinced that it’s worthwhile for that only. They may even think it’s the only way to definitely get all the DLC; indeed, that may yet prove to be the case.

The social element is perhaps a little more bewildering on the surface it, in that Xbox Live, PSN and especially Steam already handle a lot of it already, and well enough. But again, this isn’t aimed at gamers in general – it’s aimed at Call of Duty gamers, for whom this game/series is a foundation of their leisure time. You may sneer, but there are plenty of folk out there who’re probably going to appreciate being given ways to weave it all the more into their daily affairs.

It’s a global obsession, the new football, and brings all the strange passion and stats and chest-thumping and grudge-matches that entails. Of course people are going to go for Elite, and it’s very probably going to be an extremely well put-together service. Those of us who find the concept unsavoury can only be King Canute (pre-punchline Canute, anyway). But when CoD’s already a game we find we need to buy new versions of annually if we don’t want to be left behind by our friends and online rivals, Activision making Elite entirely free would help support that yearly investment, perhaps go some way to defeating the concern that the franchise and its fanbase are simply being milked.

At the same time, I can’t go all the way into hating Elite. Sure, it’s clearly about making money and it hooks into a lot of the stuff I find distasteful about certain aspects of modern gaming – Achievement culture, bragging, unlocks and other ephemeral rewards with built-in obsolescence – but it is also trying to give more context and satisfaction to what are otherwise rinse and repeat online man-shoots. I bristle at the sense it’s an attempt to supplant ‘gaming’ with ‘Call of Duty’ but at least it’s something a little more purposeful and ambitious than simply and cheerlessly supplanting Call of Duty 2010 with Call of Duty 2011 with Call of Duty 2012 and so on. Elite is troubling on tons of levels, most especially because of the track record of its owner (e.g. $15 map packs, the closure of multiple developers earlier this year) and because it’s so brazenly about wringing yet more cash out of us, but maybe, just maybe it won’t be as despicable and cynical in practice as it sounds.

So here’s a discussion point to end on: if this was done for something that generally attracts more respect amongst the RPS community, such as Stalker, The Witcher or Minecraft, how would we feel about it then? A flat fee to get any and all DLC, to form groups and share creations? Is it the mere concept of such a service that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, or is it that it’s Call of Duty and Activision, which are so often treated as easy go-to names for Everything That’s Wrong With Gaming? Either way, we may hate Elite and what it says about the modern games industry and audience to the pits of our very souls, but let’s not kid ourselves that any other major publisher wouldn’t kill to be in a position to do something similar.

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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162 Comments »

  1. poop says:

    yes, I would be pretty angry if cd projeckt red or the stalker dudes tried to pull this kind of shit, not in the least because they are up until this point never really tried to do this kind of cash wringing, which really sets them apart from other devs in this horrible dlc world.

    • Groove says:

      If Battlenet added these kinds of features and told us to pay for them then I’d be pissed. I imagine I’d play less, knowing other people playing the same game were having an easier/fuller experience than me.

      Oh, and I appreciate paying for things, but you paid when you BOUGHT the game.

    • Mattressi says:

      I only buy games that have minimal DRM and which I can keep once I’ve bought them, so if the next Stalker, Witcher or Minecraft game had this, I’d simply not buy them. For sure I’d be annoyed that one of my favourite games series is dead, but I’d get over it. Lately I’ve really only been buying indie games anyway – the devs all seem to actually want to provide their customers with a good experience, rather than experimenting with how little they can give for the same amount of money.

    • Radiant says:

      So you’re worrying about paying subs for a game you’ve already bought?

      If WoW is anything to go buy then ‘socialising’ cod makes ridiculously good sense.
      I’m interested in how this pans out.
      And what future plans they have for this type of service.

      Activision version of Steam? On a per game basis?

    • FLBR says:

      “Call of Duty already isn’t a million miles from being a subscription game, at least in terms of multiplayer – every November you cough up another $60 for a few new weapons, features, maps and a ridiculously overblown but relatively brief and heavily scripted singleplayer experience, but essentially continue having the same experience year after year. (That’s before you factor in the Xbox Live sub, if that’s your preferred platform for the game). If the Elite fee is to be, as hinted, around $8, that means you’ll be spending some $156 a year on Call of Duty if you want the complete package, to ensure you’re getting all the Call of Duty there is, and keeping up with whatever Joneses most matter to you.

      Robbing Walker: Stick to TF2 guys! Just think of the amount of keys, hats or weapons you could buy with that amount of money!

    • Premium User Badge

      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      Man, this block button is awesome. Thanks, RPS tech man!

    • Premium User Badge

      luminosity says:

      I didn’t even notice the block button till you pointed it out. Thanks, Man Raised by Puffins.

    • Delusibeta says:

      @Groove: We already have SC2Gears ( http://sites.google.com/site/sc2gears/ ). Why try harder?

  2. Danorz says:

    COD Elite launches not with a bang but a whimper, Valve go “oh those are some pretty good player tools actually” and put them in TF2 for free, pc gaming wins again.

    • King Kong says:

      yes, Valve would never charge for superficial content….

    • Danorz says:

      there’s a bit of a difference between superficial and cosmetic

    • Misnomer says:

      TF2 is far from a quality community anymore. The servers are like 75% trash (keep ending up on roll the dice, micspam, premium donation abilities…servers when trying to find a decent 24 player or less pub game). Microtransactions and trading had completely overtaken most of the gamers and stats whoring has been there for a while now.

      As others have pointed out, Valve is selling weapons that are locked behind random amounts of time. Took me 55 hours of playtime to get one of the Rift promo weapons…and it only came eventually through trading with someone I knew (I refuse to get into the same pool as the scammers and exploiting traders out there just to get fundamental game content: aka weapons).

      So really, all this does is make Steam look autodated as far as individual player services. Video sharing has just been introduced for a single game and it took them how long to get screenshots? Xfire is far ahead in these features. Most of Steam’s improvements lately have been centered around telling you how your friends are spending money and security because scams were becoming so frequent. Hardly something to brag about from the rooftops.

    • skinlo says:

      I’m looking forward to my free L4D2 and Portal 2 DLC, are you?

    • Premium User Badge

      Monchberter says:

      @ Misnomer.

      You’re obviously not looking hard enough for TF2 servers.

      There’s loads of vanilla servers out there. Having ran a vanilla TF2 server for quite a while I can tell you that it’s actually hard to keep a server going unless you build a community around it. If the server’s good (or people enjoy it – yes people enjoy RTD servers etc) people will stay and there’s plenty of successful vanilla servers out there and the one’s that there are will have solid communities.

      My advice. Find a server you like and stick with it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nathan says:

      I agree with Monchberter: there are more than enough quality servers out there to keep interested parties satisfied. For the UK, Hampshire Heavies and the PC Gamer servers come first to mind as quality examples.

  3. d32 says:

    Elite, you say?

  4. Daniel Rivas says:

    It seems that it is less about persuading us all to play only Call of Duty than to provide for those who do that already. Horse before cart.

    I am looking forward to being told very loudly and in no uncertain terms just how little everyone cares about CoD.

  5. lanster27 says:

    Spin-off for RPS:

    Rocket, Papercraft, Shogun!

    No, you should really do it.

  6. KikiJiki says:

    FYI the legend of Canute trying to turn back the tides is widely misreported. He was in fact sitting on the beach to prove that kings aren’t gods yo.

    After SPESSMEHREENGATE I would have thought you’d be sure to do your research Meer :p

    • dadioflex says:

      Nobody said why he was trying to turn back the tides or expected the tides to turn. Bottom line, the tides did not turn. That’s the message here.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I thought the whole point was that he did it to show how kings may have power over men, but are just as limited as everyone else in many important ways, and also shut up asking him for nice weather for your bastard crops, pauper.

  7. yhalothar says:

    Yay, more players for Battlefield 3!

  8. Premium User Badge

    Rinox says:

    “Wicked dominator” huh?

  9. Duffin says:

    Bear in mind we also have Blizzard asking WoW players for money to play dungeons with friends from different servers.

    • Phinor says:

      What Blizzard is doing is, in my opinion, actually way more greedy than whatever Elit3 shit Activision is trying to offer us. WoW players are already paying 13€ each and every single month to a) play the game but also, and mainly b) for new content and features. Now Blizzard is slowly shifting towards offering in-game features to only those who pay another subscription on top of what they are already paying every month. if 11 million players paying once every month isn’t enough to develop these new features, then there’s a big problem in your organization.

    • v0ids0ul says:

      @Phinor You do realize that Blizzard is owned by Activision right? So it’s Activision raping the gaming community on all fronts. See here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activision_Blizzard which is in turn majority owned by Vivendi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivendi . So needless to say you can blame the dirty greedy French for all this subscription B.S.

  10. King Kong says:

    The biggest problem with all these “improve your loadout and maximize your performance” is that COD has a pretty limited number of weapons and loadouts.

    You can just google for the best loadout for COD: Black Ops and find out that you want the FAMAS with red dot sight

    • Warskull says:

      I think you misunderstand “improve your loadout”, what they actually mean is “pay us to get the guns that aren’t gimped.”

    • Thants says:

      Is it that limited? Looking it up now (http://www.codblackopsblog.com/call-of-duty-black-ops-weapons-list/), Black Ops looks like it has 44 different guns.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      That’s true but most of them are essentially the same gun and many of them are simply the same gun but with slightly better stats. The short version of this is that although there’re ten or so assault rifles once you hit max level there’re only really maybe two or three that’re worth using. There’s one heavy machine gun, one sniper rifle, one sub machine gun. And so on.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      …except if you play hardcore, wherupon every gun is just as damaging as any other, more or less, so then the other attributes like recoil, reload speed, clip size and attachment compatibility are more important. This sort of generalisation gets on my tits; it’s like someone saying all Street Fighter characters are equivalent.

  11. zipdrive says:

    Is Elite any different from a paid-for Battle.net? It’s even from the same publisher and I’d say it’s the inspiration for CoD:E.

    Personally, I won’t go for it, as I think it’s Way Too Much Money (TM), but I also play last year’s games today and live in a tree outside Panama City.

    • Moni says:

      Yes, it’s very different.

      Battle.net is a digital distribution platform for Blizzard games, tying your purchases to a unified account.

      Elite is a social media platform for Call of Duty games, (mostly)* separate from the game.

      * Elite gives you access to cheaper DLC.

    • zipdrive says:

      Err…no.
      Battle.net is also a social network of sorts, with all the achievements, matchmaking, forums and what-have-you.

  12. whateverJ says:

    If this were available for other games for free, or was free but now costs money, I could understand the outrage. But there is no other game that provides statistics this detailed. So what exactly is the problem with paying money for extra service? If other games catch up and provide this free of charge, I’ll be more skeptical but until then I’ll gladly pay for it.

    • Srekel says:

      Wondering the same thing, really. They’re not necessarily doing anything evil here (though the devil is in the details as always). They’re not changing the game, they’re providing an additional service. Some of it is free, some of it you have to pay for. If you’re not super-into CoD MP, you can continue playing as normal, perhaps sometimes looking at whatever free Elite stats/community stuff you get. If you’re really into the game, maybe you won’t mind paying some extra money to get to view in-depth detail statistics about how you and your friends are playing.

      What’s the alternative? That they give it away for free, as a means to get more people to buy the game? Sure, I guess, but I think it’s pretty fair to also charge for something you’ve developed. Of course they’re doing it to earn more money, but you as a player is getting something in return.

      It’s not a zero-sum game.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      Quake Live has pretty damn extensive statistics. UT2004 had detailed statistics. Shall I go on?

    • Outsider says:

      Quake Live has pretty damn extensive statistics. UT2004 had detailed statistics. Shall I go on?

      That doesn’t say they are more extensive than what COD has on future offer, or even existing statistics tracking, which was the op’s (possibly erroneous) contention.

    • Tatourmi says:

      Meh, paying for statistics? Each month? And for CoD? And for that company? I wouldn’t even dream about it. If, for me, it was the most polished video-gaming experience ever why not, but it is not remotely close from being that.

  13. Jonnyboy says:

    Who gives a rats ass about statistics? I just wanna blow shit up

    • whateverJ says:

      A problem that plagues FPS is team balance. This sort of detailed statistics could help with that.

      I often experience in TF2 how after a particular crushing defeat the losing team leaves the server. Now the servers empty and you’re lucky if it is filled again on the next evening. This is for 12-14 slot servers. I guess that is what makes 32 slot servers so popular. Even if half the server leaves you can still get a game going. But they turning into a mindless fragfest when fully filled up.

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

    Yet another reason to not play CoD Games (not that I really needed any more reasons)

  15. gganate says:

    I don’t think you could do this online approach well, even if a better series, like the Witcher or Stalker, were used. An MMO based on those properties might be interesting, yet that’s not what we’re talking about here. What exactly are you getting for eight bucks a month? DLC and a social networking experience? That doesn’t sound like much of a value, just like Quake Live, which was a repackaging of an old game. For single-player games like the Witcher and Stalker, you’d never get your money’s worth out of this approach, because designing decent DLC content would take too much time. Look, for example, at Betheseda’s fallout dlc and Bioware’s Mass effect content. Most of it isn’t worth it, and the good stuff is far too short. Heck, Valve’s now abandoned episodic strategy was supposed to be, in concept, similar to DLC in that we were supposed to receive a new game, broken up in parts, but quicker than usual. Basically, good single-player stuff takes time, which doesn’t work for DLC, and I can’t see the value in multiplayer repackaging.

  16. Mechorpheus says:

    They really need to come out with a properly detailed list of what is going to be free (i.e. included in the box of the doubtlessly full price game), and what this service bolts on. If I can continue to play COD online (which I dabble in and out of and generally quite enjoy, even though I’m worthless at it, but certainly not enough to justify spending a sub on) without having to have the service, then more power to Activision. Go forth and multiply your monies from the great unwashed. However, if its going to be more like the included multiplayer is more a sampler, and the Elite service actually makes it the full game, then I’ll be more annoyed. As long as they don’t take away from what multilayer COD is with this, or if they do they’ve got to cut the (Already horrendous) price of the boxed product.

    A bigger concern from me is that if this is successful, how long before they do something similar with Starcraft, and I DO play that a hell of a lot.

  17. Acosta says:

    I don’t hate Elite, I don’t care for CoD, and if, by some magic, the billion making game was some mix between Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress with The Witcher 2 graphics, I would be glad to put all my videogames money on it and play forever and ever.

    So, yes, being honest answering that last question, I have no problem with this.

    • CMaster says:

      I’d have thought that buying the supercomputer array necessary to play such a thing on would already have cost you enough money at that point.

    • Acosta says:

      I would connect it to my soul and fuel it with my blood if I had to.

    • Premium User Badge

      Napalm Sushi says:

      And I’m sure that if you opened up this endevour to rest of RPS, we would end up with a machine the likes of which has only been imagined in Warhammer 40K.

    • Groove says:

      Dwarfcrafter 2 is the golden throne?

    • Acosta says:

      Good! That way we can add spaceships too!

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      soulblur says:

      Frankly, I’d be pretty happy with a combination of Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft with the graphics of Minecraft. In fact, that would be lovely. Barring that, even the graphics of Oblivion would be pretty good. Minecraft with Dwarf Fortress AI, NPCs and variety. Somebody make a mod for that, please. I will pay money.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    I’m sure Activision will put at least one major feature in the premium package what will make people really want to subscribe, just enough so it will be worth it but not as big to be overpowered. Like, subscribe and you get 1.5 more XP than normal, or whatever. Oh well, from everything I’ve read there’s zero features that interest me in this whole thing.

  19. 4026 says:

    “If this was done for something that generally attracts more respect amongst the RPS community, such as Stalker, The Witcher or Minecraft, how would we feel about it then?”

    Still pretty bad. It’s the whole concept of monthly fees and the feeling that you’re renting a game rather than buying it that I object to. I’ve yet to find any game worthy of me paying infinity pounds to play it when there are so many other brilliant games out there for free or cheaps.

  20. sneetch says:

    The way I look at it is this:

    If you’re selling a “proper” MMO style service, one that costs money to run and has development for it, then I have no problems with paying to access that. I would gladly pay a subscription for something like that in Stalker or The Witcher.

    If you required me to be a subscriber to play in your for cash competitions then that’s fine too. (I wouldn’t be interested in gaming for profit mind you, I’m too old and slow to enjoy that).

    If you’re basically just offering a glorified database that tracks stats and for links to various types of social networking then I have issues with that.

    I’m willing to bet that they’ll pull some kinda stunt on the server hosting here too: (only subscribers can be in clans, only subscribers can rent servers, only subscribers can have reserved slots or admin rights and so on).

  21. Outsider says:

    I can’t really drum up the outrage because a company is trying to sell me something, or because they’re making games to make money. If I don’t want it, I won’t buy it. If enough people don’t want it, they won’t buy it and the market will decide the next path.

    At this point, folks who buy COD know what they’re getting. People aren’t surprised at a heavily scripted single player or the quick and dirty makeup of the multiplayer. People buy COD knowing exactly what it is and what they intend to do with it … which is apparently put a staggering amount of time into the online play. If players don’t want this service (like me) they won’t subscribe to it, if players don’t want to play a new incarnation every year, they won’t dish out money for it. No one is getting taken for a ride here and there is no injustice in people buying something they want.

    • anduin1 says:

      too many stupid people buy these kind of things so voting with your dollar is pointless when the large majority throw cash at the dumbest incentives.

  22. Professor says:

    I wonder how the DLC deal is gonna work. Suppose I’m late to the party (as I often am) and there’s already two map packs out. Would I get them both for signing up to Elite? Would they then remove my DLC if I cancel my subscription?

    It’d be cool that have something like that for a game like Mass Effect 2, where the DLC is incredibly overpriced compared to how much the base game costs these days. Even if they remove them after I cancel the subscription, I could at least play the damn things in the first month without having to pay three times what I paid for the base game.

    • DMStern says:

      The question of what happens to the DLC after your subscription runs out is my concern as well. If you can keep it then the DLC can’t be more expensive than one month’s subscription, if you can’t keep it then who in their right mind would subscribe?

  23. killmachine says:

    Give all your money to CoD. Give yourself to CoD. Play only CoD. There are no other games. Nothing else matters. Shoot the men. Shoot all the men. Shoot them all the time.

    i lol’ed.

    • Brutal Deluxe says:

      I emailed that quote to my gf I thought it was so good.

      She didn’t care.

  24. Michael Hoss says:

    This is the first step to a monthly subscriber service. And not for a MMO but for a simple shooter. Not even a Massive Multiplayer Shooter. So: No. It deserves all the hate. If CD Projekt does a Witcher MMO, I’d be fine with a pay-system. If GSC would announce a STALKER-MMO, I’d be fucking fine with it. If Minecraft would go MMO (With THOUSANDS OF THOUSANDS players) I’d be even more fucking fine with it. But just for a achievement-whore social network ripoff and give a fuck service? Uhm. No way.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      The thing about slippery slope arguments is that they’re an argument against something that is happening on the grounds of something that isn’t happening.

    • tmargul says:

      @Steven Hutton

      It is happening. It has been happening for the better part of a decade now, across the entire industry. If you can’t see it, you need to put the Kool Aid down.

    • chakraist says:

      Also, you’ve confused a slippery slope argument with one that has a false premiss- they are not the same thing. A slippery slope argument is when you say a -> b as your initial premiss and derive a -> b -> c when b and c have no connection. ‘This increase in my videogaming time over the last week lead to me getting up off the sofa less over the past week. This means I will get fat and die alone.’ Conclusion false.

      The argument above was neither a slippery slope argument nor one with a false premiss. (i dun a masters in logic innit)

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Maybes if you dun a masters innit in spelling you’d know how to spell ‘premise’ and stuff. Agree with you though.

  25. Vadermath says:

    No, I wouldn’t be as mad if Notch or CD Projekt or someone similar wanted to charge cash for some sort of additional service; first of all, they probably would make it really good and worthwhile, so I don’t feel like I’m throwing away my cash. And for them, this would the first attempt to milk some more cash out of their games, and it would be worth the cash: For Activision, who has earned billions upon billions of bucks on CoD already, this is really just one more disgusting step in the ‘we care about nothing but cash’ direction.

    • Sassenach says:

      Activision get it worst because they have form for being less then benevolent. There are details missing from the story that are required for a thorough analysis and people fill in those gaps using the rule of thumb ‘Bobby Kotick is an arse’.

  26. Lobotomist says:

    When a gaming company tries to charge for something that was previously free (and other competitors give free) . Than the said game fails.

    Just look at gaming history :

    - Hellgate tried to charge monthly fee for a game structure that is similar to Diablo 2 battlenet = game died

    - DDO tried to charge subscription for type of a game similar to Guild Wars = Game failed (until they removed subscription)

    - APB tried to slap subscription to what is similar to group based shooters = Shortest lived MMO ever

    I am glad Activision is going for this. It will mean death for MW franchise >:D

    • Unaco says:

      What, exactly, are they going to be charging for here, that is currently free?

    • Lobotomist says:

      Thats exactly what above mentioned games had to say.

      And yet players draw parallels :

      Hellgate = Diablo <- free

      APB = (insert shooter name) <- free

      DDO = GW <- free

    • Unaco says:

      Ok… so you’ve repeated the examples you gave originally. Well done. Now, answer me this, what is to be charged for, in COD Elite, that is currently available for free?

    • Vague-rant says:

      I don’t know… APB suffered issues beyond just that link and a lot of the noises about Hellgate think it too wasn’t exactly great.

      Like the article mentioned though, this doesn’t need to get too much to make it sustainable- most of it looks like generic CoD stuff anyway, so I can’t imagine they’re spending Megabucks on it (like both Hellgate and APB).

    • Lobotomist says:

      I repeated my point. Yes
      There is not much more to add to that.

      If there was some solid measurement to know why a certain game failed. Many developers would be happy. But there isnt. There is only speculation.

      One can say APB failed because gameplay issues , or because of subscription fee.

      But I can tell you one thing for sure.

      Subscription fee reason was thrown around often in “Why we failed” interviews and articles. For both Hellgate and APB.

      Gamers are just not happy to pay for something , they are used to get for free.

      And “Elite” is just glorified version of battlenet for MW

    • Baines says:

      APB employees mentioned subscription fee as a reason for failure because they botched the subscription fee system. APB is the game that had the weird pre-release public scuffle over just what the fee would be, and that soured some people over the game.

      Gamers mention the subscription fee as a reason because to most people, the game simply wasn’t good enough to pay for. APB had a lot of gameplay and design issues. Now that it is free-to-play, it has more interest, but there are still people who don’t think it is good enough to play even as a free game.

      Call of Duty has its own gameplay and design issues, but the game itself is at least competent and it has a *lot* of supporters who are willing to toss it not only what it already asks for, but additional sums on top of that.

    • Unaco says:

      Lobotomist, you still haven’t answered my question. You say that when a company tries to charge for something that was previously free, then that game/service will fail. You then give some examples. You then say that this will cause the Modern War Franchise to fail.

      But, I ask for the 3rd time… Why? What services will there be in the COD Elite system, that will require payment to access, that COD players can currently get free?

      Currently, I am unable to see why COD Elite will fail, and cause the failure of the MW Franchise, because you have not shown that COD Elite is one of the instances where a company charges for something previously free, or offered free by someone else. Your logic is not robust here.

  27. Wilson says:

    To me, the ‘Compete’ part of the package sounds like the most compelling bit. Events and competitions could be good if enough effort is put into them. I’m not really the type to play enough of any one given game multiplayer for enough time to want a service like this, but I imagine that if I did then regular new events and competitions would be pretty cool. The stats tracking stuff is nice, but I would never pay money for it alone, and the connect stuff doesn’t really interest me because the low-level stuff will likely be free (playing with friends etc) and I’m not social enough to want all the groups and clans and gubbins.

    But good, interesting events (maybe some really off the wall stuff, like odd ‘team deathmatch racing’ gameplay or a special server with odd random weapons for a weekend or something – those aren’t great examples, but hopefully give an idea what I mean), they might be worth spending a bit of money on.

    • whateverJ says:

      It could really be huge for semi-serious group of friends. I guess there are quiet a few who don’t want to put in the effort required for a serious league, but still want more than ganging up on random pub players.

    • Wilson says:

      @whateverJ – Very true. If they offer that functionality, that would be pretty cool too.

  28. mmalove says:

    Well in my opinion, its the concept of this being a subscription service. The problem comes down to entitlement: once a company begins receiving regular subscriptions for a service, they begin to display entitlement towards that subscription, it stops being a premium thing. A company isn’t as enticed to regularly release DLC map packs if they aren’t going to realize as much immediate revenue from them. MMOs run into this too: when an MMO first releases there’s oftentimes more content distributed in the months immediately following the release: then … silence, as all content updates instead become part of an “expansion”.

    And Activision (yes, I know we love to beat on Activision, but hear me out) has committed the ultimate in subscription based entitlement with World of Warcraft: the premium service fee. Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for paying your monthly subscription for our massively multiplayer online game, now for just 4 dollars more you can also enjoy it with your friends or use our online services!

    Would I pay the same sub for these features in something like minecraft? No – because they are bogus and unnecessary. There’s little to no value added in integrating minecraft with facebook: and if there was the game’s modable to the point someone could just write the mod and freely distribute it for folks that were interested.

  29. Valvarexart says:

    If CD Project Red or Notch started charging us money for using online services, especially a subscription, I would not be a fan any more. It is one thing to charge a subscription for playing a game, quite another to charge it for extra services.

    • Hallgrim says:

      Er, what? Why? Services cost money. Why do you think you pay a sub for an MMO?

      Maybe the service isn’t worth it to you (or any other rational person), but the idea that games = money, service = free is just silly.

    • v0ids0ul says:

      @Hallgrim: Sorry sir but you’re just plain wrong. Services have always been, and should have always remained a part of a paying patrons entitlement that comes along with the game. I should not have to go out and buy a game for $50.00 and then have to turn around and pay just to play it online. It’s robbery, and it’s bad enough that it is the reality for a lot of modern games. To then charge a fee on top of that for “premium content,” is beyond being total bullshit.

      A game like Call of Duty has no need for a subscription based “service.” What they offer should simply be a part of the game. This would be the equivalent to selling you a brand new car, but one that you could only drive. If you wanted to listen to the radio, you have to pay for it.

      In the case of WoW it would be like buying a car that you can drive around for a month, but then you have to push it around because it’s completely useless unless you pay every month just for the right to continue driving it. Don’t even compare it to gasoline, because gasoline is a third party necessity. Paying to play a game you just bought? You’re are being robbed, and loving it and so are all the people that play MMO’s… How do some people offer completely free MMO’s, but other people “must” charge? Even when the free MMO’s don’t even charge for the game, yet games like WoW charge for the game and then the great “service.” Unless they are coming into your house to fluff your pillow and give you a B.J. then they are providing no “service.”

  30. wisnoskij says:

    Just wait until they start charging a monthly subscription to even play multiplayer matches.

    • Unaco says:

      Even worse, just wait ’til they start charging a flat fee for every match you want to play ($1 for a 20 minute 5v5, $2 for a 8v8). Then, after that, just wait ’til they start charging a monthly fee for the SINGLE PLAYER game!! Then, after that, they’ll start charging for OTHER DEVELOPERS SINGLE PLAYER GAMES, games they didn’t have anything to do with! Then, after that, they’ll start charging you to use your own bathroom, they’ll be rounding up left handed people and putting them in concentration camps and stationing guards in your house to make sure you don’t play any games other than COD and those they get revenue from.

      Oh this slippery slope we are on!!

    • chakraist says:

      It’s a good day for those who like bad logic, today.

  31. Alexander Norris says:

    every November you cough up another $60 for a few new weapons, features, maps and a ridiculously overblown but relatively brief and heavily scripted singleplayer experience, but essentially continue having the same experience year after year

    I dislike Activision as much as the next man but this isn’t really an argument; it’s like saying that BF1942, Vietnam, 2, 2142 and 3 are all “the same experience.” Yes, they’re really rather similar. That’s what sequels are for!

    • Steven Hutton says:

      I wouldn’t say that. I think a closer analogue would be the Fifa, Madden or NHL series.

      Each edition in the battlefield series has been a significant update. At least IMO. The CoD games are more like a roster update. In the CoD sequels you basically get a set of reskinned guns that are just, well, guns. At least the Battlefield games added new classes. 1942 had the Sniper Rifle which fired explosive rounds that could be timed to explode at a specific point in space.

      I guess what constitutes significant will likely vary from person to person (I felt L4D2 WAS a significant update worth the price, many others very vocally did not) but that’s my two cents.

  32. Zarunil says:

    If Notch tried this with Minecraft, there would likely be a shitstorm and he’d cave in and make it all free, like he did with the mod access fee thingy.

  33. Moraven says:

    I would like to see an 6 or 12 month subscription for this service, which includes one or two free map packs included.

    Plus as said Steam, Live! gives this already. Bungie.net does it also, for a lot cheaper.

    Miss the days where stuff like this would be free.

    (I don’t play CoD)

    • Moraven says:

      “When a map pack is released, you won’t have to pay for it again, you’ll get full access to the content with your Elite subscription. All the Modern Warfare 3 content that’s released post-launch will be included with the cost of subscription.”

      From Ars

      Answers that!

  34. karnie says:

    “every November you cough up another $60 for a few new weapons, features, maps and a ridiculously overblown but relatively brief and heavily scripted singleplayer experience, but essentially continue having the same experience year after year.”

    Tell you what…. throw in every new COD retail game that comes out from this point on, and I might consider it…. but there’s no way I’m spending that kind of money ON TOP OF having to shell out $60 every time they come out with a new game.

  35. bluebogle says:

    I don’t like this at all. I wouldn’t like it if any of the games you list did it, and I don’t like it that a game I don’t play by a company I don’t really like is doing it. Tacking on a bunch of social media like features to get a few more dollars out of gamers is just pathetic. They do this (as was stated) to satisfy investors, not from any respect to their customers. And when enough people buy into it to convince them that this was a good idea, other companies will follow and soon every major game will be trying to scrape a few more bucks off of us.

  36. Nallen says:

    I might give MW1 another play through. Good game that.

  37. Premium User Badge

    Monchberter says:

    hate to say it, but Valve have had the right idea with Team Fortress 2.

    Pay at point of purchase, then if you want extra stuff, either pay for it, or play for it, or trade for it.

    It does help that they run a store and content delivery system with a community, but that’s by the by. Activision just want in on the act with a severely limited offer.

    I can’t really see this working on consoles either seeing as there’s much more of a pay / play / trade-in mentality.

  38. Vague-rant says:

    That trailer sounds really geared towards kids. Have they just given up any pretence of the rest of the market?

  39. vanilla bear says:

    “If RPS had a scrap of sense, we’d have launched a couple of spin-offs by now, but a corporation we are not.”

    (C) Rock Paper Shotgun Ltd disagrees with you.

  40. leejohn51 says:

    Why would I want to play this game if only the hardcore Call of Duty fanbase are going to get the full experience? If people are prepared to pay and play, receiving all of these benefits, then they are going to be the only ones dominating the stats and having a decent time. Personally, I would not want to play a game consistently where I feel that I am only getting about 1/2 the experience of other players. Unfortunately, my Call of Duty collection ends with Black Ops, I refuse to give this company any more money after all of its bad press. I have not played Battlefield nearly as much as COD in the past, but I will sure as hell be giving my money to them rather than Activision.

  41. HelderPinto says:

    Activision can suck my cock, I’m keeping my money.

  42. Cradlejoe says:

    The whole idea of paying for it seems a little mad to me, it’s like having to pay to use the comment and forum sections of RPS. It’s paying for something which is essentially there to secure players (Money) in the first place.

  43. RoTapper says:

    MW1 was the last good COD title. The big insult here is that they keep charging more and more money for a franchise that gets worse which each release. On the bright side, for $96 a year, perhaps we can finally figure out who the Best Grenade thrower on Nuketown is.

  44. SteveHatesYou says:

    I’m supportive of anything that will cause the CoD franchise to burn out a little bit sooner.

  45. bowl of snakes says:

    I’d listen to what ever a good solid developer had to offer, I mean, 1) I like to vote with my money for the devs that seem to be creative and competent. Like buying a good touring bands T-shirt even though I’m only going to do yard work in that awful thing. and 2) If you I think they made good stuff in the first place, maybe they are coming up with a good offering and not just stats and social features? What if notch put together a premium server and used the subscription fees to hire the baddest ass modders to update it nonstop, or some other idea that would obviously require a dev more resources than they currently have.

    Activision’s 1000 lb map pack gorilla was kind of depressing way before this and I understand and also suffer from extreme subscription allergy, but personally I want devs to be creative with how they structure their products and evaluate them case by case.

  46. Tenorek says:

    Your Questions are fair. And I have to admit that the real problem here is not Activision/Call of Duty, but the people that play it. It is the same issue I felt with the prisoners being forced to farm gold. I wasn’t so bothered by the fact that the guards were doing it. It’s actually pretty smart, they were clever enough to find a market for that. What bothers me is that there is a market for it. This is the same. That there are people so engrossed by CoD that they would be more than happy to pay Activision just to tell other CoD fans that they are obsessed with it makes me a little sick. Activision knows there are people willing to pay for it, and they will probably drag their “on the fence” friends into it, and so they know they can charge for it. If there wasn’t a market for it, it could have potentially be added for free I would imagine.

    • Outsider says:

      And I have to admit that the real problem here is not Activision/Call of Duty, but the people that play it.

      In short, you’re unhappy that people like to play games that you don’t like.

      It is the same issue I felt with the prisoners being forced to farm gold. I wasn’t so bothered by the fact that the guards were doing it. It’s actually pretty smart, they were clever enough to find a market for that. What bothers me is that there is a market for it.

      It bothers you there is a market for people buying gold online that is driven entirely by personal choice … but it doesn’t bother you that people were forced against their will to supply that market.
      Huh.

      That there are people so engrossed by CoD that they would be more than happy to pay Activision just to tell other CoD fans that they are obsessed with it makes me a little sick. Activision knows there are people willing to pay for it, and they will probably drag their “on the fence” friends into it, and so they know they can charge for it.

      Yes, that is called ‘word of mouth’. When someone likes the Witcher 2, he tells his buddy to buy it. No baby bunnys were killed in this transaction. It is interesting to note that people spreading the word about things they like makes you feel a little sick, but prisoners being used to generate money for prison guards is totally okay with you.

      If there wasn’t a market for it, it could have potentially be added for free I would imagine.

      Why? If they polled the community and found an item that there was no interest in, why would they then spend the time and energy developing and adding something that no one wants?

  47. D3xter says:

    After careful deliberation, I have decided that I do not like you.

    And no, companies are not about “making as much profit as possible”, even if for instance what happened to Google: http://www.tamingthebeast.net/blog/online-world/evil-google-shareholders.htm where the Revenue ONLY grew by 27% year-over-year whereas the analysts predicted more and shareholders were up at arms and some even started to sell their shares. They are there for whatever reason their respective owners deem them to be supposed to be doing. Publicly traded companies have to answer to investors, private companies (like Valve for instance) do not and can very well do whatever they damn please… for instance put quality or consumer relations over anything else and “sell out”: http://www.computerandvideogames.com/262497/news/valve-refuses-to-sell-out-on-stock-market/

    Regarding Activision, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here and forget about them tanking two of their biggest marketable franchises (Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk) not very long ago because of their oversaturation of said market and exactly the same sentiment of, let me quote Kotick:
    “In the last cycle of videogames you spent $50 on a game, played it and took it back to the shop for credit,” said the redheaded recidivist at the Deutsche Bank Securities Technology Conference. “Today, we’ll [charge] $100 for a guitar. You might add a microphone or drums, you might buy two or three expansions packs, different types of music. Over the life of your ownership you’ll probably buy around 25 additional song packs in digital downloads. So, what used to be a $50 sale is a $500 sale today.”

    So maybe stop your cheering and “it’s not so bad” tirades and look at it from that point…
    Companies like Valve (or now CDProjekt) who can be and are extremely consumer friendly also make loads of money, it isn’t as much about “making profit” but about HOW one goes about ones way to do suchly.

    • Alec Meer says:

      After careful consideration, I have decided that your opening sentence means you’re A BAD MAN.

    • Hallgrim says:

      After careful consideration, I have decided to order pizza for lunch.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      So if we were to change the word company in the article to “publicly traded corporation” or some such and indicate that majority ownership was with shareholders would you otherwise be ok with the article?

      I mean if Kotick is required to maximise profits out of responsibility to his shareholders and his shareholders are mostly employees of hedge funds, investment firms or banks who’re in turn responsible to maximise profits for their employers who’re again beholden to another anonymous or diffuse organisation then we end up in a place where no one has responsibility for delivering a quality product in a reasonable way and not, for example gouging the shit out of the customer base with arbitrary price hikes.

    • Nick says:

      After careful consideration, fnar.

  48. Rii says:

    Reposting this here as this is the article that pushed me over the edge into commenting on this phenomenon.

    This nonsense about WoW being in decline has really got to stop.

    It’s one thing to make a story out of an entirely unremarkable factoid, it’s quite another to continue to bring it up in story after tangential story.

    So the scuttlebutt is that WoW is in decline. And maybe it is. It would hardly be a surprise (or a failure) if that were the case at this point some five and one-half years after its initial release. Of course, nobody here has access to Blizzard’s data to say for sure one way or another.

    So what’s the problem? Well, it’s this ’5%’ thing that folks have latched on to as indicative of WoW’s decline, when in fact all it’s indicative of is that WoW continues to inhabit the same physical universe as the rest of us.

    When an expansion is released, a proportion of lapsed accounts will resubscribe to check out the allegedly significant changes that’ve been made to the game. This is why expansions exist in the first place: without them, without the obvious sweeping changes and marketing pushes they bring, subscriber numbers will gradually fall as people become tired of playing a game they’ve become overly familiar with. “Patch 2471″ won’t entice (many) of these players back; WRATH OF THE LICH KING, on the other hand, will.

    Of course, players that resubscribe won’t necessarily stay resubscribed, and so it is entirely unsurprising that, following an initial surge, there has been a fall in subscription numbers post-Cataclysm. Indeed, you can put good money that there were similar losses in similar timeframes post-Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. It is an entirely unremarkable and eminently predictable occurrence. It would be utterly bizarre, in fact, if it didn’t occur.

    I can already hear the objections being raised at this juncture. Surely, you say, I am neglecting to consider the potential for NEW subscribers. And by golly, this would’ve been an excellent point if we were back in 2006. Fact is, WoW has been near-stagnant in its initial markets (i.e. North America, etc.) for years now. And that’s something that should’ve been obvious to anyone paying the slightest attention to the video game industry in general, let alone WoW specifically. Just who are these people who apparently decide in 2011 to pick up a game that they’ve turned down from 2005-2010? To a first approximation, they don’t exist.

    Even by the time Burning Crusade launched some four years ago, WoW’s growth was being driven almost entirely by expansion into new markets. That’s where all the milestones since have come from. Notice that the high-water mark (as judged by Blizzard’s press releases) had stood for forever and a day until one day, shortly before Cataclysm, it finally notched another record? What happened to make that happen? Oh, just a little thing: the Wrath of the Lich King was finally being released in China.

    So, who here can guess what WoW hasn’t had this time around to compensate for the entirely normal, predictable, and unremarkable fall in Cataclysm subscriber numbers amongst those markets that, err, actually have Cataclysm? Full marks for the cute girl in the back row, WoW hasn’t expanded experienced any significant market expansions during the period.

    No market expansions + normal decline = OMG WOW IS IN DECLINE!!!!!!!!1

    But what of it, you say? Regardless of the mechanism, subscriber numbers are going down. Surely that’s the take-home story here? And it would be if WoW had actually finished expanding into new markets and delivering products into existing markets. But neither of those things are the case. WoW is set to launch in Brazil (world’s future fourth-largest economy don’cha know) next quarter and China will get Cataclysm at some point.

    So when, following those events, Blizzard announces via another breathless press release that WoW has again notched a record number of subscribers I’ll be right here saying I told you so.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Feel free to say that then. Then is not now, and now is that 5% of 12million subscribers are no longer paying, meaning a decline in revenue of several million dollars and the reversal of a half-decade-plus-long trend. You can’t dismiss the right here and now as nonsense purely because you’re convinced it’s going to be different in a few years. It very well may be! And let’s say that when it happens.

    • Rii says:

      @Alec Meer

      “You can’t dismiss the right here and now as nonsense purely because you’re convinced it’s going to be different in a few years.”

      A few years? If Blizz doesn’t come out with a new subscriber record within ONE year I will eat my left foot. ‘A few’ years from now all the markets *will* be fully exploited and WoW will well and truly be in its financial as well as creative twilight.

      And I can dismiss it as nonsense because I have good reason to dismiss it as nonsense based upon past patterns and future plans. Just as you don’t call someone ‘dead’ in the space between two heartbeats or breaths, judging the state of WoW based upon this single data point is utterly absurd.

      And if anyone doubts the significance of new markets to WoW’s future, consider that the same leaked product slate that saw fit to list ‘Titan’ also listed ‘WoW Brazil’.

      “And let’s say that when it happens.”

      We will indeed, and personally I think y’all (meaning ‘the internet’ in general, with attention to games journalists in particular) are gonna look a little silly when it does.

    • tmargul says:

      I’ve heard that part of the reason the 5% is so troubling is the fact that the number has declined by more than that in the West, and has been balanced out somewhat by expansion in various other countries, but these new players aren’t spending nearly as much as a western sub would cost.

      I can’t really quote a great source on that though, so who knows.

    • Rii says:

      @tmargul

      I’m sure that’s the case, and it makes perfect sense for shareholders to be concerned about such things. But neither RPS nor the vast majority of outlets which covered this story are financial publications.

    • Tei says:

      Theres a theory that ALL mmos start dyiing after a few months. What mmos that last years do, is to release expansions or jesus-patchs that delay that dead months. So if you every month, delay your dead a few months, you can live forever. Only that delayement is getting dimishing returns. And thats the problem here with WoW. The positive effect of a new expansion pack has ben reduced to fast . The general idea is that any new expansion will have a effect even smaller… so at some point new expansions will only help to slowdown the dead, but will not raise numbers or even stop the bleeding.

      So WoW started to die a few months after release, but has ben buying extra time all this years.

  49. vodka and cookies says:

    I think if it were any other game it would be met with indifference by and large.

    However with the monster that is CoD there is the real fear that large numbers of people will sign up to this and the slippery slope will kick in as more future features wind up as part of CoD Elite, this will have a knock on effect in the rest of the industry making them follow suit.

    Ultimately it’s success I guess will depend on how many CoD only players are out there willing to fork over the cash and their are quite a few of these one game only guys.

    Personally I hope this experiment fails.

  50. Pointless Puppies says:

    Considering how Activision has driven sure-fire seller series like Guitar Hero to the ground due to their “MAKE MONEY MAKE MORE MONEY MAKE MONEY MONEY MONEY” attitude, I wouldn’t really trust in their confidence that this won’t backfire on them. You can only give Malibu Stacy new hats until you completely exhaust their audience cause them to just bail completely on the entire franchise, which is exactly what happened to the GH franchise.

    The only reason we’re not seeing more than one CoD game per year is because it’s probably literally impossible. I’m confident in inferring that there really would more 2 or more CoD games and spinoffs and whatever if Activision could bend the fabric of space and time for multiple instances of Treyarch/IW to work on separate CoD games. For now they’ll have to “settle” for selling overpriced map packs (which are making a killing no less).

    There’s a thin line between giving what fanatics of a franchise want and just completely burning everyone out. They went over the line in Guitar Hero, and they’re approaching that line with CoD. Only time will tell if they’ve crossed the line this time or if they will in the near future. Personally, I think MW3 will sell a ridiculous ton of units, though probably not that much higher than MW2, IF they even sell as much as MW2. I can’t help but feel that it has peaked in terms of popularity already, though. As far as I’m concerned it’s not a matter of “if” the franchise goes down the drain, it’s a matter of “when”.