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Call of Duty Elite subscription service brings social integration to Modern Warfare 3

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Activision has always been firm in its stance of not charging customers for the right to play Call of Duty online, but that doesn’t mean the company hasn’t been working on ways to take more of your money than the annual $60 spent on each successive release in the series. So far, it’s just been maps added to each game’s multiplayer mode as downloadable content. That’s all going to change later this year, however, when the publisher launches the Call of Duty Elite service alongside the forthcoming release of Modern Warfare 3 in November.

There’s long been talk of a subscription-based service for COD fans, and Elite is it. You won’t necessarily have to pay to use it, but you will be forced to pony up if you want to take advantage of the full range of features. As base, you’re looking at a social network designed entirely around the Call of Duty experience.

Starting with last year’s Black Ops — though Modern Warfare 3 and beyond will feature more complete integration — the service will track user multiplayer stats by game and across their entire “career” with the same minute level of detail already seen in the Combat Record section of the game. It’s not so far off from what Bungie.net offers to Halo players, only with much more detail, such as heat maps showing where you most often score kills and/or bite the dust on a given map.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a social network without the “social.” Players will be able to link up with one another in Groups and Clans. While both serve the function of gathering groups of players together, the latter is meant more for the truly competitive players, the ones who want to regularly be participating in tournaments, scheduled matches and the like. Activision is even planning actual competitions with real prizes going to the winners. Elite users will be able to keep track of everything in a number of ways, including iOS and Android mobile apps that are currently in development.

It will all start with a beta, which is expected to launch this summer and will link up with Black Ops to gather player data. Earlier releases in the series won’t integrate. What’s more, even the features available in Black Ops will be stripped down in comparison to what MW3 will bring. All of the basic features will be in place, but you won’t, for example, be able to have the game’s matchmaking prioritize others in your Group.

Activision isn’t saying anything specific about pricing for the service, but the expectation is that the cost will be comparable to online services like Netflix. Certain features, such as stat-tracking and Groups, will be free to start with. Check out Activision’s breakdown of Elite‘s key pillars, ripped straight from the press release:

•Connect: Call of Duty Elite gives players unprecedented control over their multiplayer experience, transforming it into a true social network. Players can compete against friends, players of similar skill levels and players with similar interests, join groups, join clans, and play in organized tournaments. They can also track the performance, progress and activity of their entire network, both in the game itself, as well as through mobile and web interfaces. Elite will be an “always on” way for players to connect with the Call of Duty community.

•Compete: Call of Duty Elite establishes the most exciting, competitive environment in a multiplayer game. Players will have available a constant stream of events and competitions, tiered to group them with those with similar abilities. Both in-game and real-world prizes will be rewarded to all skill levels.

•Improve: Call of Duty Elite is like having a personal online coach. It provides players with a dynamic strategy guide that tracks their statistics and performances down to the most minute details. It can show gamers how they stack up against their friends or others in the community. Tools and information are provided so players can learn and up their game.

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