8-Bit Thought Bubbles

I’ll have to thank Activision and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for doing something that has the makings of controversy for me to talk about in this latest edition of the sometimes here, sometimes not 8-Bit columns. If you don’t play games at all or do and live under a rock let me enlighten you.

With the latest release of the Madden of Shooters coming in the not to distance future a new feature is being introduced called Call of Duty Elite. Essentially this is a program that will carry a monthly fee for access to enhanced features and all future DLC. While the specific details of what you get can be found at numerous other outlets, generally speaking the features are:

Enhanced social connectivity features for playing with friends and connecting with others.
Some form of access to officially sponsored tournaments and events for players of different skill levels.
Access to advanced statistics and intel – which as I read it could be like a strategy guide – on maps.

This is from the main page of their website to sign up for the Elite beta and honestly the details aren’t important so I won’t waste time going into it. As someone who generally detests things like Day One DLC and content that gives people who pay more an advantage you’d think I’d hate this elite package.

After the break I’ll tell you why – based on what I’ve read – I don’t in this case.

So why don’t I intensely dislike this package? To sum everything up in a nice statement: I see nothing critical to playing and being good at the game that isn’t available without being a member.

I haven’t bought a Call of Duty game since the first Modern Warfare – a groundbreaking shooter to me as I feel that every FPS since has incorporated the progression elements into their system as a direct result of it. Access to new weapons and abilities was a direct result of time spent. If you were good at shooters you’d get there faster but even mediocre players unlock every eventually.

Modern Warfare 2 was given to me as a gift by a buddy so I played it – but briefly. If you feel that Modern Warfare is a recycled game with no real new content along the lines of Madden – like I do – you won’t buy it anyways.

Elite, however, only enhances the experience of the game in a cosmetic way. The ability to form social groups in a game is nothing new to gaming, but I’m sure given the money Activision has to play with there will be some neat features in there. Tournaments and things of that nature are things that most people will not care about. Stats are the only sticking point to me as in most games pretty advanced stats are available to you free of charge. I haven’t read enough on the details of whether this means that NO STATS on your game play at all will be available if you aren’t Elite, but I doubt that.

For many people those added features will justify being a member. When you throw in that Activision is telling all subscribers they will get ALL additional DLC free as a member, this has real value. Activision has managed to crank out 3 map packs a year for these games typically at a ridiculous – to me at least – $15 each.

That's $45 a year for COD players. At the proposed $5-8 a month for Elite, that comes out to $60-96 bucks a year. Given that the players that will subscribe would have ABSOLUTELY spent $45 on the game throughout the year anyways, the value seems good to me.

I never begrudge a company the right to make money off of those who are so smitten with their games that they will purchase cosmetic DLC. Horse armor in Oblivion? Hats in TF2? Gestures in Portal 2? Better stats and access to DLC, possibly a week early, in COD:MW3? All fine. People complain about it because they actually want it but are too cheap to get it. That's fine, but in the end not purchasing it will not affect your ability to play the game.

The only concern of mine is that in companies' ever increasing desire to nickel and dime gamers to squeeze out slightly better profits for shareholders, I feel like paying to be better gamers is the next step. Games that remove content solely for next day or day one DLC will always draw my ire. Games that offer extra features appealing to a small percentage of the populace whose consoles are really just “Call of Duty Machines” do not so long as they don’t take away from the product that non-Elite members should be getting.

Can you really blame Activision for knowing that 1-2 million are willing to pay a monthly fee for something as simple as bragging rights stats and early access to all DLC and acting on it? In today’s age of rising development and marketing costs we might as well come to terms with the fact that companies are not going to leave that kind of money on the table and as long as it is done with cosmetic and non-competitive components I see no problem with it.

We’ll see if Elite actually ends up being that way or if features every shooter around today gives for free – like something as simple as K:D ratios (kill to death for you non-shooter players out there though I have no idea why you’d still be reading this at this point) – are no longer available. If that is the case buy Battlefield 3 when it comes out. You’ll still get your even more modern then the last modern warfare on.