Is Activision Smarter Than We Think? A Closer Look at Call of Duty Elite

Published 2 years ago by

Call of Duty Elite and Modern Warfare 3 Sales

Before the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops many industry analysts predicted that the title, despite not being developed by Infinity Ward, would break the previous installment’s records and go on to be one of the biggest game launches in history. However, when it came time for Modern Warfare 3 to launch, many were a bit more cautious about predicting the title’s success, unsure of how to gauge the apparent backlash that was forming towards the once popular franchise.

Nevertheless, the game released to uproarious fanfare, once again shattering records, and all seemed to be right in the world for Activision. But now here we are — six months after the release of Modern Warfare 3 — and those apprehensions are actually proving to be true, just not in the same fashion.

After riding high on the revenue of early adopters, Modern Warfare 3 sales finally began to taper off in a much more drastic fashion than previous installments. Those fans who lambasted Activision for their lack of evolution and money-hungry ways, are now getting the last laugh as they watch Modern Warfare 3 slink down the sales charts. But the publisher isn’t laughing, in fact they might have been smart enough to see this coming along a while ago.

While many publishers who anticipate slowing sales might ramp up marketing or offer pre-order incentives, Activision did something a little different: they added another thing to buy. It might be simple coincidence, or it could be genius pre-planning, but the unveiling of Call of Duty Elite couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Sure, the stat-tracking service doesn’t, on the surface, come at a price, but the real meaty content does.

Instead of letting sales, or at least revenue, slow down, Activision announced that Call of Duty Premium would be the premiere outlet for all Modern Warfare 3 DLC (maps, missions, modes). And what does a Call of Duty Elite Premium membership cost? Conveniently it’s the exact same price as a retail version of Modern Warfare 3.

Modern Warfare 3 Sales Slowing

That means that for every die-hard fan who picked up Modern Warfare 3 — as long as they didn’t pick up the Hardened Edition of the game — Activision was guaranteeing themselves double the sale. It would be much later before any of that additional content would be offered — we’re only in the fourth month of the 9-month release schedule — but right out of the gate Activision was ostensibly recouping one uninterested gamers’ money via this Call of Duty Elite membership.

It’s not a permanent solution, but it’s definitely a stopgap that will fit for the time being. This year gamers are looking at Black Ops 2 releasing, and most likely those sales will have less of the staying power of Modern Warfare 3, and once again Elite (this time Elite 2.0) will be there to subvert some of that lost revenue.

And then we enter into a new console generation, which should feature a brand new version of Call of Duty with a brand new engine, ostensibly wiping the slate clean. Old fans will return to see what’s different, and new fans will flock to the hot new title that everyone’s playing on their PS4 or Xbox 720.

Like was said before, this all could be one huge coincidence, but in light of the slowing Modern Warfare 3 sales it seems pre-meditated. Activision might not have the most noble of methods, but they certainly know how to get results.

Do you think that Activision planned for Call of Duty Elite to supplement slowing Modern Warfare 3 sales? Will Black Ops 2 be another breakout success or with it be a downtick for the series?

Follow me on Twitter @ANTaormina.

TAGS: Activision, Beachhead Studios, Black Ops 2, Call of Duty, Call of Duty Elite, Infinity Ward, Modern Warfare 3


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  1. They are not smarter than we think. They are more money hungry than we ever thought.

  2. Oh! You mean like smart like how they had to sue some kid for the rights to the domain of MW3?

    Maybe the article was meant to be sarcastic.

  3. Honestly this is the worst of all the COD games since COD4, so it makes sense that sales are falling off.

    This title was made very noob friendly.

  4. Interesting thought, and you’re right Anthony, about next-gen. I will come back to COD next-gen, if they fail to impress then the launch game of PS4 will be the last COD for me.

  5. i dont think their smart releasing the elite pack seeing as buying each map pack separately each month would cost more then £45

    with each pack costing around £10 p/m customers would be paying nearly £100 for all the map packs released

    and working in a game store i see more ppl buying microsoft points to get the map packs separately each month then just picking up the elite membership
    even with explaining they would be saving money buying the elite pack they still choose to buy microsoft points and spend way more money
    and plus not all COD fans can afford an extra £45 for the elite so they choose to spend £10 p/m and get the packs individually

    • Well it’s hard for COD players to make a big one time purchase like elite with the allowance their parents are giving them. Much easier to spend a little bit at a time over a long period of time! I kid I kid… Sort of ;)

  6. COD sucks and I can’t wait for this almost-done-with fad to be completely over.

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