COD Elite: The Free, The Paid & The Hmm

NUMBERS. How much would you pay for even more of 'em?

Call of Duty Elite, the social networking/clan-organising thingy for COD multiplayer, got a whole lot of backs up when it was unveiled the other week – the prevailing, Chinese-whispered sense being that we’d be expected to fork out to get the full CoD multiplayer experience. With the waters very much muddied, Activision seem to be in fire-fighting mode – now explicitly stating just what will be free. Activision also reckon that “we believe that the free elements of Call of Duty Elite will be superior to any free service currently on the market.”

Oh, and they just called you a hater.

The key message, they claim, is that CoD multiplayer remains free – there is no pay to play subterfuge going on, and instead Elite will offer a bunch of new stuff for no-pennies. “Even haters can play for free,” they say. Oooh! Get them! That’s you, that is. (And maybe me, a bit, but not as much as those guys who keep filling our comments threads with how Bobby Kotick is worse than Gadaffi or whatever. You realise big companies have more than one decision-making employee, right?)

So, here’s the list of most of what you’re getting for free – but apparently there’s more yet to come, which they don’t want to reveal yet because it’s about the only element of Modern Warfare 3 that didn’t already have its guts forcibly spilled in public:

  • Access Elite through the web as well as Elite’s free custom iOS and Android applications for smartphones and tablets
  • Communicate any way you want across mobile, console and the web with your friends
  • Track and share thousands of stats with friends – k/d ratios, score-per-minute, win % and loads more, all represented in easy to understand charts and infographics
  • Create your own custom leaderboards to track friendly rivalries – who is moving up and down in your group of friends?
  • Analyze advanced heat maps detailing your match-by-match performance – where you killed or got killed, when it happened, and more
  • Analyze your weapons performance – which weapons you are best with in which situations
  • Upload and share videos of your greatest moments through our exclusive theater mode with the touch of a button
  • After you analyze your performance to your heart’s content – Customize your loadout – search through all the weapons, attachments and perks, and push them directly into the game menu from the web or your mobile device with the touch of a button
  • Join dozens of groups and find other players with common interests to play with and compete against – find people who make the game the most fun for you – TDM, Lakers’ fans, Weekend Warriors
  • Create a Clan with players who share your interests and taste for competition
  • Bring your Facebook friends right into the game, easily taking your existing network into the Call of Duty experience.
  • Seamlessly be placed into Groups with those who share your affinities and interests based on your Facebook profile.
  • Start tracking your Call of Duty career — everything you wanted to know about your performance across the franchise starting with Black Ops

Which, of course, begs the question of what the people who pay will get on top of that. So far, we’ve heard something about getting all the DLC packs as part of it, but what else? Ner ner, they’re not telling:

“The premium membership of Call of Duty Elite (which is completely optional) will set a new gold standard for what the multiplayer and community experience for a console game can be. Why are we not revealing all of the features that are part of the premium service today? Simple. Because the service was designed to be deeply integrated with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and will not be demonstrable until we are closer to the launch of the game. We know seeing is believing, and over the next few months we will be revealing and demonstrating more of the premium features and by the end of the summer, we will reveal the entire service in full.”

So, are we actually any clearer on this? That’s a big list of free stuff, but the issue around Elite is not really anything to do with the free package – people are grumpy because they don’t see why they would want to pay for extra stuff; why they would want to pay on top of the price they already paid for the game itself. Until said extra stuff is revealed, and moreover revealed to be as extraordinary as Activision claim, that’s going to remain the case. The damage hasn’t really been controlled yet, I fear.

Let’s see what “the end of the summer” brings, anyway. Meantime, you may be able to get an early taste of Elite by signing up for the closed beta here.


  1. Teddy Leach says:

    No, Activision. I’m still not going to play your game.

    They wouldn’t offer a paid option unless they wanted the majority of people to use it though, so I’m still not sold on their motives.

    • d34thly says:

      The only way i’ll pay a monthly subscription is if they send out a geisha to swallow my load while i’m playing once a month.

    • Wodge says:

      That is a very specific demand, you’re probably not in the demographic they’re aiming the game at.

    • sinelnic says:

      @Deathly, this geisha word was very confusing, please keep the hyperbole level on par with CoD standards, will ya?

    • The Colonel says:

      yeh, fag!1

  2. DeanLearner says:

    Hmm, it doesn’t actually mention the ability to shoot and/or move in the free version. I’d rather have confirmation of this before buying (?) the free version…

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Buying the free version, eh? I sense a doublespeak attack!

  3. FLBR says:

    “people are grumpy because they don’t see why they would want to pay for extra stuff; why they would want to pay on top of the price they already paid for the game itself.”

    Robbing Walker: Sounds familiar! Hatters! I mean, haters!

    • Harlander says:

      If you’re going to insist on wheeling out this tired old nonsense with regularity, at least get a better punny derogative.

      I mean, “Robbing Walker”? That’s just.. that’s just a mess.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Emphasis on the word “Sells”.

      Money for old rope != theft…

    • aerozol says:

      Considering 99% of the financial transactions I make these days involve trading ‘virtual’ currency (eg eftpos) for real items, I don’t see why selling virtual items for virtual money is ‘robbing’ anybody.
      To be honest, your whole ‘thing’ is just plain fucking stupid. Just STFU, pirate the DLC, and seed to a decent ratio. Thanks.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      FLBR: It wasn’t funny the first time. Just leave it.

    • westyfield says:

      Arch-nemesis Jim Rossignol! Or should I say… CRIM ROSSIGNOL!?!?!?

      As in, criminal. Because robbing. No?

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Jim Robbingol? Jim Robbingall?

      Because robbing all. Geddit?

    • Magnetude says:

      Ah, I just remembered why I got an account in the first place. So I could block FLBR.

      For the record, Valve can mug people off with microtransactions until the end of time, my game is not worsened in the slightest by people buying co-op skins, nor by my decision to ignore same skins. Pre-order bonuses are a far greater evil (looking at you Deus Ex).

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      FLBR: No, I get it, I really do. It’s not the sentiment I have a problem with so much as the fact that you post it over and over again. You’ve made your point, you keep making it. It’s boring. Stop.

      “The lack of criticism towards Valve on RPS is also a little strange.”

      It really isn’t.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      “TF2 – You can buy hats, keys, weapons…
      Portal 2 – You can buy hats, animations/gestures”

      Yes, the important thing you seem to be missing however is: Hats. You can buy HATS. Do you see? Hats. Nothing useful. Nothing that gives any advantage. Not better weapons, not a better ping, not game matching services. Hats. Just a bit of frivilous fun. Do. You. See?

      Why on *Earth* would that justify criticism? I don’t really understand why someone would pay for a pretend hat, but if it makes them happy what do I care.

      People are grumpy here largely because they don’t yet *know” what they will be being asked to pay for. Some suspect it’ll be stuff that traditionally has been available for free. Others suspect it might be things/features that would confer an advantage to those who have more cash. I’ll wager no one is grumpy because they suspect they might be given the opportunity to buy hats.

    • Mr.Nice says:

      Not to mention, they (Valve) consistently support their games with free DLC. When was the last time you got free anything from Activision? They charge 5$ per DLC map, 60$ for a PC release (and wait 2 years to drop the price on the digital version), and now they’re trying to figure out ways to squeeze a monthly fee from their customer base.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      I would love to play an arcade fighter sim with FLBR. Except for he wouldn’t have an aircraft and I’ll go DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA.

      *FLBR respawns*


      *FLBR respawns*

      Ad infinitum, etc.

    • Mr.Nice says:

      @FLBR: You pay for the game, and whatever it contained on release day. Any content (that costs money and time to produce) you recieve later for free, is just that – free bonus content for the paying customer. They could easily charge for any and all content they release (see: Activision).

      If you can’t comprehend this simple concept, we have nothing to discuss.

    • Durkonkell says:

      You know, I said I wouldn’t use the block function because you never know when someone might say something interesting or insightful.

      There’s always an exception…

      (Yes, I am a Valve apologist. Because apologising for a company that routinely turns out exceptionally outstanding PC-centric games and supports those games while also being a responsible and considerate employer is totally necessary).

    • JackShandy says:

      Crime Bossignol.

    • Magnetude says:

      OK I promise to block forever after this thread but:

      Is there a word for that feeling of mild disappointment you get on finding out that someone you thought was a moron turns out to be a troll? “Free DLC isn’t free because you have to buy the game” just gave me that feeling.

    • Starky says:

      FLBR, you sir have gone from making bad jokes to just flat out spouting idiocy.

      Congratulations, it takes special dedication to ignorance reach that level of stupidity – you wouldn’t happen to be a creationist would you?

    • Delusibeta says:

      I vote ban him for trolling.

    • westyfield says:


      What the fuck? There is a difference between a piece of DLC and a game. Is Alien Swarm a free game? Yes, obviously. BUT WAIT. I can’t play it unless I’ve bought a computer.
      Valve, you bastards! Your ostensibly ‘free’ game actually cost me £800 in hardware, operating systems, peripherals and internet bills!

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      That argument isn’t even specious, it’s just fatuous.

      The DLC is free because you’ve not had to pay for it. That you need a paid for game to use it is irrelevant. TF2 is not a free game. The DLC is.

      If I gave you a DVD for free you’d still need a TV and DVD player – that you’d have to pay for – to watch it. It doesn’t stop the DVD being free though.

    • Starky says:

      A Chocolate bar in a shop is on sale with 50% extra free, 300g for the price of 200g

      FLBR: “ZOMG it’s not free, you have to buy the chocolate bar to get the 100g ‘free’. I demand 100g of free chocolate right now!”

      Onlooker: “Crazy bastard.”

    • Unaco says:

      Dearest RPS Overlords,

      I appreciate the implementation of the block function on the RPS Article comment threads. With this feature in place, I can avoid things like having a page take up 3 times as much memory as it should, due to the presence of one of Wulf’s ridiculously over long, self aggrandising, masturbatory screeds, full of implications that we are all closeted racists… or one of FLBR’s posts reiterating the exact same joke/criticism that he has been peddling since Portal 2 came out (it wasn’t funny then, either). I note he is still on the “You need to buy the game to get the ‘free’ DLC, so the DLC isn’t free, Valve are worse than the Spanish Inquisition, and RPS are a front for the CIA” line… Has someone pinned him down and asked him “What fucking use would the DLC be without the game? Why would you want it without the game?”*.

      The reason I know this, despite him being the very 1st person I blocked on the very 1st day the new feature was available? His comments still get previewed in the ‘Respond to our Gibber’ Box on the front page and other articles. If it would be at all possible, could I have even those previews blocked? Then I would never have to worry that even the tiniest little seed of FLBR’s idiocy would somehow get caught in my head, and that I’d wake up one day, move to a house with a basement, then move into the basement, buy some Mountain Dew and start being an arse on the internet.

      Yours faithfully,

      * Throw some childish insults and expletives in there at the end as well, if you feel like it. Liken him to a poor excuse for a crabs anus or something imaginative.

    • JackShandy says:

      Ok, I’ve got more. “Smart” Alec Sneer, Con Stalker, Squintin’ Smut and Leer-on Killen, roughest gang in the business.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      The provision of the DLC is not included in the “contract” when you buy the game and Valve are not legally obligated to provide it, therefore it is not included in the price. If it were included then it’d be the equivalent of pre-ordering and Valve would have to either provide it or give you a refund.

      Valve may be funding the development of the DLC via the cash from games sales, but that’s not the same thing. My employers paid me some money last month (as they do every month). If I were to go out and buy them a sandwich (assuming they were a person rather than a company) it’d still be a free sandwich regardless of the fact that I bought it with money they gave me.

  4. Duffin says:

    “Even haters can play for free” – you mean we can play for free after we’ve payed our annual £40 CoD tax, gee thanks!!

    • Alexander Norris says:

      This is a friendly reminder from the Games Bureau that you haven’t paid your Battlefield Tax or Dawn of War Tax either.

      Or really, your Anything That Comes Out Regularly Tax, since apparently any series whose releases follow some kind of semi-regular pattern counts as a tax.

    • B0GiE-uk- says:


  5. Kaira- says:

    Well, the free service is by far more extensive than I thought. Very nice.

  6. Kirioth says:

    I’m no expert on the Call of Duty games, so I’ve no idea whether this is all rehashed crap with some more stuff like Facebook integration bolted on for good measure, or whether it’s completely new.

    If things like stats tracking and clan forming are already available in CoD games, then they don’t need to mention them.

    • Duffin says:

      Yeh, most online fps games have inbuilt stat tracking. But now I can post my l33t K/D ratio on facebook dawg.

    • Kirioth says:

      First person who does that on my friends will get removed. Instantly.

    • McDan says:

      Yo dawg we put skill tracking in yo skill tracking so you can track your skill of skill tracking while you skill track. Dawg.

  7. deabreu says:


  8. gallardo1 says:

    In my opinion people aren’t getting grumpy because they don’t know what they’ll end to pay with the premium service (that’s hilarious), but because Elite seems the first step to make us pay for things that we take for granted now.

    • Eightball says:

      Down the road we’ll get the game for free but pay per bullet.

      Grenades are DLC.

    • Untitled says:

      Eightball, wish I was joking but I can definitely see that happening in the near future

    • Bremze says:

      Pay-per-bullet? *Everyone rolls sniper*

    • Teddy Leach says:

      I’m sure there was an online gambling shooter a few years back. You had to pay for ammo and weapons, but got paid per hit/kill.

      EDIT: Kwari, that’s it.

    • Zarunil says:

      There is actually a game for iOS where you have to purchase ammo using microtransactions. It was a sci-fi MMOFPS.
      It actually became quite popular. It was in the upper levels of it’s category in my country for a while. Can’t remember what it was called though.

    • Kdansky says:

      There are already F2P Facebook games that work like that, you know.

  9. pakoito says:

    Feed me more bullshit please. “Gold standard” coming from Activision, LOL

  10. Alexander Norris says:

    That sounds pretty good, if nothing exactly original. That said, the best feature is without a doubt this:

    After you analyze your performance to your heart’s content – Customize your loadout – search through all the weapons, attachments and perks, and push them directly into the game menu from the web or your mobile device with the touch of a button

    Huzzah! No more having to launch the game to faff around with classes.

    • abhishek says:

      I’ve always thought it’s a bit ridiculous that COD doesn’t let players customize classes while waiting in the spawn queue or at least between matches. You have to exit all the way out to the main menu to do that. The only time that happens is when I’m about to quit the game for that session anyway. That and of course, the meager 5 classes they allow us to have. A billion customization options, but only 5 sets of classes you can allot them to.

      The concept of changing your classes through an mobile phone app is interesting though. It should be an ingame feature like I mentioned above, but failing that, this could work too. Changing my loadout between rounds through my droid would be amusing, in a redundant but still cool kind of a way.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Actually, Modern Warfare (as in, CoD4) let you do it at the end of a map, and MW2 lets you do it in their universally terrible lobby system (the only good aspect of said system). It’s really only the Treyarch ones that don’t let you do it and I have no idea why.

      I’m wondering if you’ll be able to use the Steam browser to go to the Elite site, customise your classes there then have them carry over to the server when the map switches. It’s a paltry substitute for a feature that was in CoD4, but it’s better than nothing.

  11. aircool says:

    Fundamentally, CoD hasn’t really evolved since the original. Meanwhile, the BF series keeps improving, learning from its mistakes and rewarding teamplay. The only thing it could take from CoD is the hardcore mode.

    Throw in the ability to restrict weapons (like DoD:S) and most people I know would be happy to play BF over CoD anyday.

    • Duffin says:

      There already is a hardcore mode in BC2.

    • subedii says:

      And it wasn’t very good.

      Battlefield is a different style of game, and insta-kill or near insta-kill weapons don’t really suit the gameplay.

      A lot of people complained about how it took “ages” to take someone out when BF:BC2 hit, but that’s because a large number of them were streaming in from CoD where the weapon model was generally more lethal, and it was largely ignored that previous Battlefield games also held with that model.

      Either way, I’ll take vanilla BF:BC2 over Hardcore pretty much any day.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      You realise the hardcore mode is shit, completely unbalances the game and is a paltry attempt to cater to people who want to pretend their quasi-Quake-like-shooter-with-a-thin-veneer-of-modern-militariness is somehow a simulation, right?

      This applies to both CoD and BC2. Hardcore is the worst thing ever added to the CoD series, and it bleeding over into other games is universally terrible.

    • Starky says:

      I’d respectfully disagree when it comes to MW1 (not played anything but the first modern warfare), hardcore mode was much more fun than normal mode. Though it wasn’t very well done in BFBC2

      Then again I played on the PC, on dedicated servers with certain weapon blacklists and limits, so it wasn’t just a explode weapon rpg/tube fest – It wasn’t balanced or even fair sometimes, but it was much more exciting.

      Regular MW gameplay bored the hell out of me compared to HC mode servers.

      To each their own, so long as games offer both modes why get your panties in a twist?

  12. Milky1985 says:

    “Why are we not revealing all of the features that are part of the premium service today? Simple. Because the service was designed to be deeply integrated with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and will not be demonstrable until we are closer to the launch of the game.”

    I read this as “its going to directly affect the game so paid players have an advantage over free players who will not be able to obtain said items any other way than paying for them”.

    “Well, the free service is by far more extensive than I thought. Very nice.”

    Sounds a bit like an improvement on the Halo:Reach stats site, which could be good as the Reach stats site is the best of the current bunch.

  13. Holybasil says:

    Just a matter of time before you get a mini M16 pet for wow if you purchase a elite subscription.

  14. skinlo says:

    I really hope BF3 beats COD in sales, but I doubt it will.

  15. tigershuffle says:

    isnt it something like the Halo thingummyjig on 360

    anyhoo……i am a Hater….and proud

    its definitely a trend/business model of nearly all the big players to stifle community modding etc

    and then dress it up as ‘Elite’ etc payable DLC

    Freebooter player – “here have this slingshot for free”
    Elite ‘Customer’ …”here is your uber Derp gun…..enjoy and thank you for your $1″

  16. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    So much obsession with stats…

    So this is the face of the next big MMORPG, eh?

    • subedii says:

      Ever since the industry got a bee in its bonnet over used game sales (HORROR!), everyone’s been trying to turn their game into a persistent levelling stat-fest.

  17. Baboonanza says:


  18. McDan says:


  19. Koojav says:

    This seems kind of fun and useful.

    You get an advanced(ish) stat tracking/sharing utility as a free addon to the game that you would have to pay for anyway and you complain about that ? WOW.

  20. Moni says:

    It’s a slippery slope, some day we’ll have to start paying for games.

  21. WMain00 says:

    Sadly I fear this sort of stuff is what will eventually kill any interest I have in the industry. Micro-transactions, DLC, “free to play.” It effectively strips apart entire characteristics of games that you would expect for your £40, making the game you’re playing nothing more than an over glorified demo. Want to actually be competant?

    Pay us an extra £1. Want to defeat that dragon? £5. Want to be able to continue on in the story? £10. It’s already noticable with the likes of Lord of the Rings Online, which stripped apart the game under the mantra of “free to play”, that your character is useless if you play it for free.

    I can’t stand it to be honest. It’ll eventually destroy innovative development, all in the name of a quick buck.

  22. cairbre says:

    I dont care what they do I am going to be getting BF3 and no call of duty game as I havent enjoyed playing it since MW and am still pissed I shelled out on steam for black ops which I never play. I still play BFBC2 all the time.

  23. Wivelrod says:

    “Deeply integrated”?

    Why do I feel that “Premium” content might end up being related to a game mode using dedicated servers, or perhaps even someform of persistant gameplay?

  24. Ergates_Antius says:

    read this as “its going to directly affect the game so paid players have an advantage over free players who will not be able to obtain said items any other way than paying for them”.

    Seriously? How on earth did you get that from what they said?

    If I was being cynical (which I am) I’d read it as “We haven’t actually worked out what we’re going to offer that people will want to pay for, but we’ve got a few months to figure it out, so fingers crossed”.

  25. Lobotomist says:

    Even when some subscription , and optional is mentioned. The game is doomed to fail.

    People dont like it

    • Koojav says:

      20mln people seemed to like MW2.

    • Zarunil says:

      Fail financially? I hope you are joking. They may be milking the franchise, but CoD will still sell a batrillion copies and make them loads of money. There is still a market for generic, linear military manshoots with clichè scripts and muscle-men with moustaches walking away from explosions, holding their Desert Eagle and smoking a cigar before getting into the helicopter and manning the mounted machinegun, then taking off and shooting dozens of generic middle-eastern badguys fireing AK-47s, while flying into the sunset. Cue credits.

  26. terry says:

    They’re welcoming haters? I hate those guys!

  27. squirrel says:

    I think Activision is too keen on developing new sources of revenue. I believe that subscription-based service is ethically justifiable. Afterall, Activision has continuous commitment to maintain the online service (of course, offering Lan support can be an alternative and would definitely be welcome by gamers including me, but anyway).

    The way they handle it is however quite a PR nightmare. Given the uncertainty of how the “free” services (which is actually paid for in a lump-sum) would be affected by subscription-based service, I for one will definitely not pre-order it. Community support determines life and death of an online game. Pre-ordering dont just provide cash-in-advance. It also guarantees community support for the game at launch. If the game is weak in community support at launch, the game would have little hope of recovering from the mistakes.

    Such tragedy happened on some great game like Unreal Tournament 3, thanks to poor marketing effort of Midway (and we now realize that Midway had been in financial trouble at that critical moment, so bad luck for Epics). No matter how many negative comments were given on UT3, the most critical factor for its failure (not a financial failure exactly, a game that sold for over 1M copies can hardly be unprofitable) is that many people simply didn’t know that UT3 was launched, as the publisher didnt promote enough. I picked up the collective edition at discount year after launch. UT3’s Community support is far from being “weak”, but it definitely deserves better attention.

    And now MW3 has enough attention, then Activision just adds such uncertainty. Come on Activision. You choose to announce a game so late (only half a year) before launch. Most other publishers / developers would announce their game at least a year before launch. If you dont get enough pre-orders, it doesnt just hurt you financially, it would destroy community support, which would eventually also hurt you financially. Please, reveal that subscription plan ASAP. Time is against you, soldier!

  28. Rii says:

    Heh, I like that they’re taking it to the haters. The degree to which folks can’t seem to stop talking about how much they hate CoD is kinda silly.

  29. GEN3RIC says:

    We will not be releasing information on what is paid in Elite because it is tightly integrated with MW3.


    we have no idea what the hell it actually is, but we’ll think of something for you to pay for after we see Battlefield 3’s offerings.

    Also, ಠ_ಠ:

    “…will set a new gold standard for what the multiplayer and community experience for a console game can be.

    So, PC gamers no longer count.

    • Sassenach says:

      I think it’s just that PC gaming have already had their John Maynard Keynes there.

  30. UnscathedGrunt says:

    I dont plan on getting this. CoD is the same game year in year out, with next to nothing changed in it. And this is basicaly Bungie’s for Halo just CoD style. And when they say “Why are we not revealing all of the features that are part of the premium service today? Simple. Because the service was designed to be deeply integrated with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and will not be demonstrable until we are closer to the launch of the game.” They are really saying: “We have NO IDEA what we are gonna make people pay for but fuck it, lets shove something there and earn some money”.

  31. Bodylotion says:

    I did not buy COD Black Ops, not even in the steam deal. I did play it but i didnt think it was that fun. Maps are lame and i got bored pretty quick. Even though the next COD looks great again i dont think i will buy it. the games are 20% more expensive than any other new game and the price drops after 2 years or something. I sure as hell wont pay every month for COD.

  32. Steven Hutton says:

    I’ve got nothing to say about this until they announce the contents and pricing of the premium package.

    I don’t really play CoD any more but if I did I’d be reasonably happy to get access to some free stats information on webs.

  33. SquareWheel says:

    “Which, of course, begs the question”
    I don’t think that means what you think it means.

    But anyway, I’m optimistically skeptical about this. I have no interest in playing, but I’m sure it will make buttloads no matter what.

  34. Freud says:

    They have been selling map packs for $15-20 and people get upset by this?