Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 24, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 24, 2014
PR Newswire
View All

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

Activision drops Call of Duty Elite paid subscriptions for  Black Ops II
Activision drops Call of Duty Elite paid subscriptions for Black Ops II
October 15, 2012 | By Mike Rose

October 15, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

Activision launched a paid subscription service for its Call of Duty series last year, with COD Elite offering Modern Warfare 3 players extra features for a $49.99 yearly fee. Today, the company announced that the paid subscription is being dropped for the next Call of Duty games.

COD Elite launched alongside Modern Warfare 3, offering paying customers extra social features, skill tracking and clan management for the game, as well as Facebook integration.

Perhaps most notably, the service also granted paid subscribers discounted downloadable content for the game on a monthly basis.

While it was understood that the paid Elite subscription would carry on into the next Call of Duty game, Black Ops II, Activision has now revealed that the fee is to be dropped for the upcoming game, although the Elite service will continue to operate and evolve.

With the launch of Black Ops II on November 13, all players will receive COD Elite and all of its social features for free -- essentially putting it on a par with Battlefield's free Battlelog system, Microsoft's Halo Waypoint, and other social services for games.

However, downloadable content will no longer come with Elite, and will instead be made available to purchase separately, or through the Black Ops II Season Pass, which costs $50.

Current Elite subscribers have been advised that they will continue to receive the premium features of the service for Modern Warfare 3, including downloadable content for the title, but that their paid subscriptions will not affect Black Ops II -- in effect, Elite for Modern Warfare 3 is a different service to that provided with Black Ops II.

Eric Hirshberg, CEO at Activision Publishing, explained that the move was not due to a lack of subscribers -- in fact, Elite had over 2.3 million subscribers at its peak -- but rather, the move to free is in aid of unifying the Call of Duty community. Having a split between paying and non-playing players had bifurcated the core and more casual players, and the company is hoping it can once again bring them together.

PiperJaffray analyst Michael Olson, however, argues that COD Elite in its previous iteration was "fraught with disappointments," and noted that premium subscriptions had a low attachment rate of around 10 percent among people who purchased Modern Warfare 3.

Olson says this move eliminates an inefficient paywall and will offset potential declines in revenues for Black Ops II (the analyst expects the game to sell fewer units than Modern Warfare 3). He believes average revenue per user will jump from $75-80 with Modern Warfare 3 to over $80 with Black Ops II.

Back when Elite was gearing up for launch, analysts predicted that the service would prove "very popular" and generate around $50 million in revenue during 2012.

Related Jobs

Red 5 Studios
Red 5 Studios — Orange County, California, United States

Graphics Programmer
Red 5 Studios
Red 5 Studios — Orange County, California, United States

Gameplay Programmer
Gearbox Software
Gearbox Software — Plano, Texas, United States

Server Programmer
Giant Sparrow
Giant Sparrow — Playa Vista, California, United States

Junior 3D Artist


Matt Robb
profile image
So lets see if I understand this.

For those people who paid this "yearly fee", well, lets hope your year is up and you cancelled, because you're not going to keep getting new stuff.

Much of what the customer received with their subscription is changing to be free, because the rest of the world was already doing it for free.

The old method was $50, the new method is $50, but the new method nets you less for your buck than the old method.

I suppose from a marketing perspective, the social stuff was just there to entice people to purchase the service, but I am curious whether all the downloadable content is worthy of the price of another game or not.

Mike Rose
profile image
Hey Anthony, Matt,

I just clarified this in the story for you - essentially, the Elite service for MW3 is separate from the one for Black Ops II. Hence, if you're paying a sub for Elite on MW3, you're paying for the special features and the DLC for MW3. The new free Elite won't be free for MW3 - you still have to pay for that.


Matt Robb
profile image
So how long are they planning on spitting out content for MW3 once Black Ops 2 is out? Do they see them as fully separate series that are developed independently?

profile image
I would think so Matt. I'm guessing this change in philosophy is a result of the fall out between Infinity Ward and Activision, or new hardware coming that will make it impossible to keep this going. Totally different development team develops the BLOPS series I would also guess that this service was not to include the new game anyway.

I should remind that MGO2 offered online internet communities built on the bottom end of the game too and it was for free use of those that purchased MGS4 and used the Online service. I didn't use it much but I did know it was there.

I'm against turning games into independent content stores because it just makes a core market within the core market of the game and puts off potential new adopters thus shrinking the bar of entry in the long run.

Maria Jayne
profile image
Not enough "whales" obviously.

Lyon Medina
profile image
As a Consumer I never saw the value that was offered in the Elite rate that COD: MW 3 was attached with. Same for Battlefield 3 and the premium upgrade. As a business man I understand that products do not run on magic and must have income to continue producing products, but with issues of DLC if there is no competitiveness pricing to have the DLC downloaded (50$ season passes for most major games) there is a much more hard barrier there that you have to break through, and that is high investment.

How much are your consumers willing to invest into your product? Would they be willing to spend 100, 200, 300+, or only the price of admission which the mean should be 80$ at the moment by my estimate. The dissolving of Elite makes me think about what the investment for COD Players is going to be for the future. Personally for me there is only one franchise I invest in. (Halo) because that is a game I don’t mind spending my money to play the newest content or interaction because I will always be playing it.

So if you have a game coming out that people will say. “Well I won’t be playing that game in three months so why should I buy all the DLC now?” or “Man I bought the Season pass for the last game and I didn’t even play it that much. Why should I get the pass when I won’t even enjoy it?”

These are things game companies should be thinking about now.

Yikuno Barnaby
profile image
Wow. I thought COD Elite was dumb, now it being not supports for future games is dumber. However, I think updating your facebook status with your gaming skills is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Social gaming, pfff.... leave it to the masters like Blizzard.