Next Call of Duty to Charge Monthly Fee for Multiplayer

C’mon … you KNEW it was coming.

First there was the price increase to $60 for this generation of games. That is easy enough to justify and accept based on the cost to product the graphics assets.

Next we started with DLC, which very quickly spawned the whole ‘Horse Armor’ DLC nonsense. DLC is paid ‘downloadable content’, and the ‘nonsense’ is that companies quickly realized that gamers would buy $2 – $5 DLC on impulse for games they like – and that it was possible to ‘hold back’ content or at least create it in parallel with the main game, making the DLC pure profit.

Then EVERYTHING became DLC … from armor to weapons to map packs. What was once free was now as much as $10!

Next EA came along with ‘Project $10’, as the first concrete action following several publishers calling ‘used games more of a problem than piracy’. With ‘Project $10’, if you buy a used game you need to pay a one-time $10 fee to access multiplayer game modes. Apparently this has worked well enough that EA uses it everywhere and others have adopted similar fees.

Now from the Wall Street Journal, we learn that Activision Blizzard is planning to make the majority of the multiplayer elements of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which will be released in November, part of a monthly subscription plan.

Here is a snip:

Activision Blizzard Inc. plans to launch an online service called Call of Duty Elite this fall that will work with the next major edition of the game, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” and future installments of the hyper-realistic combat-simulation game. In a move industry executives describe as a first, Activision plans to charge a monthly subscription fee for the service, which will provide extra content that isn’t offered on game discs sold in stores, including downloadable map packs that give players new “Call of Duty” levels to play.

Activision executives said they haven’t yet figured out how much to charge for the service, but they expect the cost to be less than fees for comparable online-entertainment services, such as a $7.99-a-month Netflix Inc. movie subscription. Portions of the service will be free, including features inspired by Facebook Inc. that will let “Call of Duty” players meet for online gun battles with others who share various affiliations and interests.

It will be interesting to see how gamers respond to this move. Personally, this marks the end for me – I will not continue to pay into this money grab while these same companies call used buyers ‘worse than pirates. But for those who play the multiplayer for months, I wonder how they will react? Players of World of Warcraft get a completely different level of service, degree of new content, and so on. Will Call of Duty offer those things … or will they have the same exact multiplayer but now charge a monthly fee? I know how I would bet!

Source: Wall Street Journal

Categories: Gaming, Rants and Raves


5 replies

  1. I could not agree more. One of the reasons I chose PS3 is because the online network is free. I won’t be paying a monthly charge for playing online if that’s what it comes down to. In the past few years the people who pay extra for better weapons always have an upper hand. That’s not as bad though as charging me a monthly fee just to use a “majority” of in game features just to have these people kill me all day long. This may be the first Call of Duty game I actually skip. Especially coming from last year’s Black Ops which was the highest selling piece of digital media of all time.

    • My older son is very concerned – he can scrape together the $60 for the game, already has the XBOX Live membership, but the monthly fee will break him. And we will be watching carefully to learn what is ‘free’ – I think it will be something that looks great but is mediocre in reality.

      And as I tell him ‘this is just a test’ – either way it will change the face of online multiplayer for traditionally single-player & free games … forever, and not in a good way.

  2. It will indeed be interesting to see where this goes, as I, too, am no fan of the online passes and nickle-and-dime DLC schemes publishers get away with these days.

    The idea of a subscription model for multiplayer like this is potentially troublesome, and at face value it sounds shady. But I do think there is a bit of an overreaction going on to this news. According to the press release, the existing ‘out of the box’ multiplayer content that has already been standard with Call of Duty games will be the same and will still be free to play. The subscription will just get you access to the social networking stuff, tournaments with real-life and in-game prizes, future DLC, entertainment programming, etc. So you won’t have to pay anything if you just want to get online and play like always — you just pay for extras.

    Of course, I wouldn’t put it past Activision to cut back on map and mode count for the free multiplayer, in turn forcing the subscription onto players. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case from what’s been announced so far, so right now I don’t see any reason to get worked up about it.

    • I think what been announced thus far is vague enough to swing just any way. So you are right – but I think the years since Oblivion and Horse Armor have shown some things, namely that publishers are looking to DLC, used games, charging for demos, and other means to generate profits.

      Therefore it would be naive to not assume that this is entirely a strategic move to determine what sort of balance they can manage – and with the popularity of CoD I think this is the perfect time for them to turn a $60 game into a $200 2-year money-suck from a few million gamers.

      Because you have to think logically – do they really want to make a risky added investment based entirely on speculation of up-take from consumers? Or will they be utilizing resources and assets from existing efforts on the same project to minimize risk?

      That doesn’t make them evil – it makes them a profit-based corporation.

      • Oh, I’m certainly skeptical, and don’t doubt for a second that Activision is going to try to get away with charging for as many features as possible without looking completely greedy. I’m an old school soul, so I’ve always been uneasy about the whole online social networking and DLC-based expansion aspects that have taken over gaming, and just the idea of standard multiplayer modes potentially requiring subscription fees troubles me. Because you know if this is a success (which it likely will be since this is Call of Duty), the concept is going to be copied and publishers are going to push the envelope on what they can get away with charging for.

        But that’s what gaming is these days, and in this instance, if they stick to their word of providing the same core multiplayer content as previous installments I’m ultimately fine with it. Unfortunately with the crap economy and high development costs, DLC and subscriptions have become a necessary evil. I don’t like them, but these things are the money-makers for publishers and developers more so than actual game sales.