Well, this is going to be an interesting one to watch. We’ve known for some time that subscription-based services would have to come to the massive population of Call of Duty at one point or another, but it turns out the new business model will be showing up sooner than many could have expected. Activision has announced that a subscription-based service called Call of Duty Elite will be brought to the world alongside the company’s upcoming shooter Modern Warfare 3.

[Update: Check out the new Call of Duty Elite trailer for an explanation of all the system’s features now!]

Rumors on Call of Duty subscriptions are nothing new, but with the latest reports coming from the Wall Street Journal, this is infinitely more reliable. Logos for both Modern Warfare 3 and Call of Duty Elite leaked earlier this month, and now we finally know what each is referring to.

The Journal is reporting that Activision will be launching the subscription service in the fall with MW3, giving customers extra stat-tracking and access to downloadable map packs that other players would need to purchase. Some of the features are described as similar to those used to analyze the stock market, tracking players’ individual performances in online matches, with special attention given to specific weapon types.

The idea will sound familiar to Halo fans, since online stat-tracking has been made available for years, both through Xbox Live and the Bungie website. Some may look at those same services being provided for a cost as a step backward, but in reality we don’t know just how in-depth the system will turn out to be.

With millions of players lining up to purchase any new map packs for any CoD title, it’s obvious that spending money on the game isn’t a barrier for the larger community, but while Elite will be charging a monthly fee, Activision executives still have yet to decide what kind of charge would be implemented. Regardless of how much the price turns out to be, we can safely assume that it will be coming on top of Xbox Live’s subscription fees, which is going to be a tough pill to swallow either way.

Call of Duty Elite Subscriptions

It’s never easy to start charging players for something they’ve been enjoying for free, but Activision has always maintained that the basic service would continue to be free. Any additional fees would only offer extra content, so players who prefer free gaming won’t have their experience change one bit. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick cites this fact as the main reason why fan backlash will be minimal, and offers his opinion that without any charges, the company’s plans for online support just wouldn’t be possible.

Call of Duty Elite could be a major change to the franchise moving forward, and may be part of the reason the company sees Modern Warfare 3 advancing the genre as a whole. While Activision may be claiming that the multiplayer experience will continue to be offered free of charge, we can’t help but think that won’t be the case in the long run. Sure, the basic systems will be offered for free, but does that also mean that any advancements in the online matchmaking will now only be given to Elite subscribers, when everyone would have previously enjoyed them?

If this spreads to other aspects of multiplayer, what could it mean for Modern Warfare 3‘s Spec Ops? Could the company offer a basic set of levels, and save the best for Elite members? We don’t even trust developers these days to give players access to all the content on a game disc, so asking them to trust that publishers won’t try to make even more profits is a little unrealistic.

A move this massive could be just the first of many similar decision made across the industry, so people who are concerned about what this could mean to further inflation similar to Call of Duty‘s map packs have every right to be. CoD is its own animal though, so the game is uniquely placed to add extra charges to their customer base.

Activision has yet to officially announce any details, but we’ll bring you all the news on the system as it becomes available. What are your thoughts on the coming subscription service? Is this a chance you’ve been hoping for, or the last straw?

Modern Warfare 3 will be released – with the all new Call of Duty Elite service – on November 8, for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Source: Wall Street Journal