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.