It's been rumored for a while, but Activision has announced that it's planning to introduce a monthly fee for its upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The game isn't going pay-to-play, thankfully, but instead the company wants to charge for advanced statistics tracking, contest opportunities, social networking, and other such premium add-ons. Players who play basically nothing but Call of Duty will probably love it. They call it Call of Duty: Elite. Kotaku sums it up:
Elite will be available in two tiers of service, one for paying and one for non-paying Call of Duty multiplayer fanatics. While all of the perks of membership are yet to be announced, that paying group may never have to pay for a Call of Duty map pack separately again.
At a glance, Elite resembles Bungie.net, the richly-detailed stat tracking service for that other mighty first-person-shooter series, Halo. But the top people behind the Elite project, including the heads of Beachhead Studios, an outfit dedicated exclusively to building and supporting Elite, promise that their service will prove to be the best of its kind, transcending expectations of websites for multiplayer video games.
The Elite service is, at its most basic, a very fancy website. It will primarily be accessed through users' web browsers, though Activision is planning to offer some sort of Elite app for iOS and Android devices.
There's lots more explanation at the above link, so be sure to check it out for all of the details. I'm curious as to how successful this program will be, but I find myself rooting against it. I don't play Call of Duty, so I won't be subscribing to Elite. However, if Activision strikes gold with this, I know that other publishers will follow along with similar premium services for their own franchises, and sooner or later that's going to intersect with something I do enjoy. I don't want a monthly Uncharted fee or a recurring Street Fighter charge. Money is tight enough these days as it is with rising gas prices and other increasing costs, and I'm cutting back on the number of games and downloadable add-ons that I buy. I'm not going to jump into another monthly charge while cuts are happening elsewhere in my budget. This kind of service isn't for me.
However, with all of that said, I can see where the core Call of Duty players could get some value out of this. Elite basically grafts an enhanced layer of social networking to the basic franchise experience, so those who play with friends in clans and makeshift leagues could go far with some sort of official Activision-backed organization. Some of the statistic tracking will be free for all players, so everyone who plays will get some benefit out of Elite either directly or indirectly. There's still a lot we don't know about the service, as the exact pricing and which aspects of Elite will be free have yet to be specified, so consider this announcement a first strike at the concept in a public forum. Here's hoping that Activision listens to the comments from the community over the summer and into the beta period that's coming up prior to the November launch. Introducing a monthly fee adds a whole new level of expectations from a new group of paying customers, so everyone involved with creating and running Elite should do right by the user base. One way or another, this will be an interesting story to watch.