Developers and publishers are always looking for new ways to grow their online communities. With games relying more and more on persistent online services, some studios have even gone as far as creating brand-new community platforms to support their flagship games. Take Call of Duty Elite, for instance. This cross-platform service offers a number of new features to support the Call of Duty community, but oddly is missing a number of key features that facilitates building online relationships with other players. As part of our ongoing efforts to help the industry leverage Community as a Service, we’ll take a look at Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty social hub to showcase what it does, how it works, where it falls short, and how it affects the extremely active Call of Duty community.
But before we jump into the service itself, let’s take a look at how it’s evolved so far. Call of Duty Elite first debuted alongside Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in November 2011, and it promised to offer a number of new features that tie into Call of Duty’s ever-popular multiplayer suite. Despite some technical hiccups at launch, the service let players track their in-game stats, compare themselves with others, and otherwise manage their Call of Duty profile while away from their console.
A number of basic features were available for free, and users who paid $50 a year gained automatic access to the game’s downloadable content packs, and were able to take part in exclusive multiplayer events and challenges.
With the launch of 2012’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II, however, things have changed a bit. Call of Duty Elite still focuses on stat-tracking and live competitions, but it is now completely free for all Black Ops II players, and as such, downloadable content is no longer included in the Call of Duty Elite package. (Modern Warfare 3 players, on the other hand, can still subscribe to gain access to that game’s Premium features.)
Now that it’s a completely free service, Call of Duty Elite no longer distinguishes between its free and premium users, and Activision Blizzard says this desegregation of the Call of Duty Elite community will make the service more effective in the long run. Raptr’s own data suggests that this switch has had a positive effect on the Call of Duty player base, as Black Ops II’s player retention numbers are currently sitting above those of Modern Warfare 3, which operated under the old Elite subscription model. In fact, Modern Warfare 3 saw one of the quickest drops in playtime for any COD game (about half of what has been typical for the series), and Activision has acknowledged that some of this was attributed to the way they set up the Elite service.
Given Call of Duty Elite’s recent changes, we believe it’s time examine the current iteration of the service to showcase how it interacts with Black Ops II, and how it impacts the game’s online community.
During this study, we’re primarily examining Call of Duty Elite as it relates to Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The service still supports stat-tracking and other features for older titles like Modern Warfare 3 and the original Black Ops, but Black Ops II is now Elite’s primary focus. Without further ado, let’s see how this current version works.