Battlefield’s Battlelog went right where Call of Duty Elite went wrong

3 Posted by - January 3, 2013 - News

Call of Duty may be the dominant game that every competitor is gunning for, but there is one competitor who is doling out more than just a flesh wound when it comes to capturing marketshare. In fact, one game was able to trump COD when it came to its online community service. When Activision backtracked on Call of Duty Elite recently, turning the subscription-based muddle into a free-to-play service, they followed in the footsteps of their historic rival: Battlefield.

“I think that they are following the Battlefield Premium lead,” says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, speaking with Games Industry International. “They want to increase engagement of gamers in the hopes that they will sell more units.” By keeping it’s purchasable content as a separate thing, EA was able to ensure Battlefield 3′ online community service, dubbed Battlelog, free, giving all gamers access to community features that helped drive an increase engagement. It’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Activision, as they just turned the COD online community service, dubbed Elite, from a subscription service to a free one.

The Battlefield 3 series has been showing signs of being a decent challenger for the Call of Duty juggernaut. Battlefield 3 sales outperformed past efforts, moving roughly half the number of units Modern Warfare 3 (its direct competitor) did. Premium offered all its downloadable content — five map packs in all — along with additional content, in-game items, and other bonus incentives for gamers. That reinvigorated unit sales by offering gamers everything they could want from the game; all the content and all the bonuses for a single low price.

Just as importantly, all the community features for Battlefield 3 were available to all users via Battlelog, and didn’t segment the community users based on whether they paid for Battlefield Premium or not.

By contrast, Call of Duty Elite charged a monthly subscription for ill-defined rewards when what the consumers really wanted was quite simple. “Activision probably found the main driver of purchase was the map packs, according to David Cole of DFC Intelligence, “with the other premium features acting more as a wedge that fractured game play between premium and non-premium users.”

By making their online community service Elite free, every COD gamer can gain access to all the community features that were once limited to just paying subscribers, such as clan benefits, enhanced video sharing options, pro gamer guides, and original video content. These are the sort of features that typically help increase retention and reengagement.

“With the Season Pass they are still selling the DLC and at the same price,” says Cole. “My thinking is it is not a competitive reaction but more a reaction to what consumers were probably telling them and creating a business strategy that could both give consumers what they want and possibly increase revenue.” Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg recently acknowledged that COD’s Elite subscription may have played a part in Modern Warfare 3’s under performance when it came down to ongoing engagement.

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