Even Haters Can Play For Free

Call of Duty Elite Graphic

Activision is ramping up the Modern Warfare machine for another world changing launch – except this time, the world they’re changing has got nothing to do with first person shooters and, um, they’re expecting people to hate it. Welcome to Call of Duty: Elite.

Yep, this latest gem of an idea isn’t anything to do with a new gaming engine – it’s a side-project that’s part Facebook, part super-statto, part fanclub. It’ll let you link your social network into MW3, give you in depth analysis on your performance (including some quite nifty looking “heat maps” that show where you keep getting fragged), and give premium users access to the DLC before the rest of us plebs with exclusive monthly downloads. Which all sounds rather nice – so why does their launch press, in one of the most defensive bits of marketing we’ve ever stumbled across, already assume there’ll be haters?

Well, cos it’ll cost $49.99 (per year!)

Holy camole – that’s a lot of beans. Well, yes, it seems like a total rip-off – but here’s the most shocking bit: our little bit of editorial digging shows that Elite isn’t actually the flagrant cash-burner we thought it would be when first hearing about the price tag. See, pretty much all of the features in Elite – the stats, the networking, the iOS and Android apps that let you build your profiles outside the game – are part of the free package. It’s only the DLC, some clan-upgrading, and the online replay theatre that you can’t get without laying out some moolah. And of that, you can grab the DLC off XBL and PSN etc anyway (just a bit later). Which makes us think it’s not actually a bad little addition (if you’re a hopeless COD-geek that is). It just raises one question: who the hell is gonna pay for it when all the good stuff is free?

Well, don’t underestimate the ability to turn a buck when your online community is 30 million strong. Elite will link all the COD games, from Black Ops onwards, so Activision seem to be taking a long view. And they’ve teasingly stated that most of the premium features are yet to be revealed – which probably means they haven’t got a clue what they’ll be, but does show they’ve got plans to scale it up. But most of all, by linking into social networking, they’re opening a much bigger market – side games, upgrades, advertising. And even more important, once the online peer pressure gets behind your product, who knows what’ll happen?

The good news is that there’s some decent add-ons that will spill out of Elite. The bad news is that, one, this is another step towards using DLC to lure you into more spending and two, marks another drift towards the icky world where development is less about the gaming experience and more about the spin-off. Except, for all that, the bad news just seems like whingeing. Activision seem so concerned about hacking people off that they’ve ended up giving away the goods for free. And that sounds like a winning idea.

Those crazy heatmaps:

The lowdown on Call of Duty: Elite’s key free features:

• 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

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