By Jared Newman | Monday, July 19, 2010 at 9:49 am
Every time an Activision executive talks about charging money to play Call of Duty games online, there’s a chorus of gamers who say the publisher’s digging its own grave. I don’t think Activision is that stupid, but I also don’t think the publisher’s detractors have fully considered how Call of Duty players might be lured to pay extra.
Subscription-based Call of Duty seems like question of “when,” not “if.” Activision-Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick told the Wall Street Journal in June that he’d like to have CoD subscriptions “tomorrow,” if he could snap his fingers and make a change. Chief Financial Officer Thomas Tippl confirmed last November that the company’s looking at more ways to monetize multiplayer. Most recently, a forum member at Xbox 360 Junkies posted video of an inactive “memberships” section while playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on Xbox Live.
Certainly, you could interpret this as evidence that Activision will at some point cut off free, online multiplayer and demand monthly payments from the millions of people hooked on the game. But I think what’s really coming into view is a freemium service, one where the average player can still enjoy Call of Duty for free, while those who wish to pay can enjoy extra features and benefits.
Consider that Modern Warfare 2 sales topped $1 billion in its first two months. I doubt Activision would risk that kind of money for a chance at monthly income. Consider also that Activision raised its revenue expectations for last quarter because sales of downloadable Modern Warfare 2 map packs were better than expected, despite complaints that the $15 price tag was way out of line with other games’ offerings. Given the choice, lots of people will pay extra for more Call of Duty.
Which brings us to the idea of a premium membership service. If I was a Call of Duty nut, I might consider paying for the following:
I’m just riffing here, but the point is that if Activision throws enough incentives into a subscription service, and makes it optional, some people will pay for it, and beyond a sense of entitlement, I can’t see a reason why other people would complain about its existence.