Activision's online service for "Call of Duty" is dropping… (Activision )
Activision Blizzard Inc. has abandoned its plan to build an online subscription service around its military game series "Call of Duty."
The Santa Monica video game giant said Monday that beginning with the launch of this November's sequel "Call of Duty: Black Ops II," it will no longer charge a fee for its companion online service "Call of Duty: Elite."
The online service allows players to track their statistics, watch exclusive videos tied to the game, and get additional information to help them improve their play. Some content is free, but much of it is available only to those who paid $50 per year.
Activision launched "Elite" last year with much fanfare in an effort to make more money off of the most fervent "Call of Duty" players, who can spend hundreds or even thousands of hours per year on it. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal unveiling the plan, Activision Chief Executive Bobby Kotick said "Elite" represented an "enormous investment" that wouldn't work if offered for free.
The monthly subscription fee aped the highly successful model Activision's Blizzard Entertainment unit uses for its online game "World of Warcraft."
In a statement, Activision Publishing Chief Executive Eric Hirschberg said, "What we have realized is that several of the 'Call of Duty Elite' services which are currently only available to our premium members... would further unite, engage and delight our player community."
In August, Hirschberg told Activision investors that Elite had more than 12 million total users, of whom 2.3 million were paying subscribers.
The company is apparently now betting that by giving away Elite for free, it can encourage more people to buy the downloadable content that will follow the release of "Black Ops II" over the next year.
Those who pay $50 a year in advance -- the same price as "Elite" -- will receive all four pieces of digital content tied to the game. Individually, each downloadable content pack costs $15.
For last year's "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3," the only way to get all of the downloadable content at a discount was to subscribe to Elite.
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