Just when you thought it was safe to start trusting Activision again, the VP of digital content at Activision, Jamie Berger dropped some troubling words for gamers who aren't entirely fond of having to pay separate subscription fees for third-party, retail games.
In an article on GameIndustry.biz Interactional, Berger lays out his excitement for subscription-based content for popular gaming properties, specifically talking about Call of Duty Elite, saying...
"I do believe services like [COD Elite] are going to become a necessity for real franchises that are going to be day in and day out. The world is changing, consumer behavior is changing. Social networks and the always-on connectivity of any device are changing the ways people behave," .... "They want to stay engaged with things in ways that couldn't even happen five years ago. I think as a game publisher and developer you have to get ahead of that."
As a gamer that comment uppercuts into your gut and then jabs a hook deep into your spleen, and then it feels like a wrecking ball swings away with the hook pulling out everything lodged inside your belly, leaving a giant gaping, empty flesh pit.
What's worse is that the success of Call of Duty Elite, which has more than one million subscribers, could prompt Electronic Arts to pick up a monthly tab on some of their bigger franchises, outside Star Wars: The Old Republic.
EA's COO, Peter Moore mentioned to GI.biz that...
"Call of Duty Elite... the numbers Activision have talked about, they've done a great job. It's incumbent upon us, whether we do that or do something one step ahead, I think the digital strategy that we're executing against right now - a billion dollars on a trailing 12-month basis - shows that we're doing some good things as well."
The first thing that comes to mind is Battlelog Supreme (because 'Elite' is already taken) and with BLS you only pay $50 bucks a year to get extra stat tracking, exclusive clan options, and added "game customization" to further your experience in Battlefield games. The mere thought sends shivers up my spine.
The same thing could also be applied to other large franchises, such as advanced social and stat tracking in Assassin's Creed, or paid services for the multiplayer in Need for Speed games in addition to [the expiring] Online Passes.
Well, Berger had more to add, because they're just head-over-heels in love with an additional paid service for Call of Duty, saying...
"If you look at Xbox Live now and look at Xbox Live four years ago, it's night and day. In a way, you never noticed it because it kept happening slowly. Then the additive effect of all that hard work and all that focus is something that is dramatically more valuable and better for the consumer at launch. It will be no different for us, when we're talking two years from now... we're going to look at Elite and go 'wow, that has no resemblance to what it was at launch.'
Two years from now does that mean COD Elite will get a price hike the way the Xbox Live membership service also got a price hike when Microsoft was pressured by big pubs to increase the annual cost of use for the Xbox Live Gold service?
Anyways, Berger goes on to compare Elite to other popular membership services, saying...
"So, this kind of service - membership services like Netflix, Xbox Live, Sirius, Hulu or us - it's a game of inches. You constantly grow. It's not like magical things happen, other than the launch of course; after that it's word of mouth and constant new people coming in and them telling their friends, that's how it works. We're no different,"
What's scary is not just the Call of Duty Elite service but rather the "dangerous precedent" it sets for other publishers. We all see how so many other money-hungry publishers are chasing after Call of Duty's annual $1 billion dollar intake, heck even Capcom wants Call of Duty money out of the Resident Evil franchise.
It's scary to think about how many standardized gameplay features we could be seeing stripped for premium content attached to an annual membership. Heck, remember when DLC used to be known as mods and they were free? Well, at least big publishers like Bethesda still embrace that concept.