The idea of selling digital products and services via physical retail seemed like an odd idea at first, but retailer GameStop said during a Thursday earnings call that Call of Duty Elite subscriptions are a hit at stores, thanks to the successful November 8 launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
The strong Elite sales played into GameStop's growing digital business, which management said expects to exceed internal expectations of $450 million for the current fiscal year.
"In the case of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, we worked closely with Activision, Sony and Microsoft to pre-order and deliver nearly 600,000 instances of the Modern Warfare Elite DLC to date," said GameStop president Tony Bartel. "This places the launch of Elite as one of our top 10 launches of the year so far."
Elite, developed by Beachhead Studios, is Call of Duty publisher Activision's subscription-based bid to better monetize its massively popular FPS franchise, which many gamers may play online for hundreds of hours.
Paying Elite subscribers get monthly downloadable content, competitions with prizes, early access to new game features and other perks for $50 annually. While players have the option to buy the service online through their consoles, many are choosing to buy them from brick and mortar retail.
"We've found that consumer demand for downloadable content is very strong at the point of launch," said Bartel. "...Based on our research we know that one half of the DLC we sell is to customers that have never purchased DLC before."
It's not just Elite that is doing well for GameStop, which sells a variety of DLC in-store. CEO Paul Raines added, "Downloadable content is proving to be the killer app our [store] managers told us it would be."
Elite has been popular, but has had a rocky start, with stability issues affecting the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, and unclear release plans for a mobile app and a PC version.