Activision is looking to do something that so far only the PC gaming industry has been successful at: that of course is subscription-based gaming. Now there are some distinct differences between their subscription-based service and that of World of Warcraft, which serves as a good basis for comparison. If that seems confusing, just ignore the fact that CoD and WoW are on different platforms.
The release of Activision's 'Call of Duty Elite' service is scheduled to launch this fall and will probably coincide with the November 8th release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 since that is the game the Elite service is going to work with. Players are already used to shelling out $60 on a new title and the concept of DLC seems to be going over well so why would Activision try to milk the franchise even more with a subscription service? The short answer is, because they are Activision. Those of you who understand what I mean will be able to stop reading here.
For those who need more on the concept, including possible price-point, hit the break.
In the effort of fairness however, they do have their hands on a mega-franchise that has done over $3 billion in revenue, $1 billion of which has come from Black Ops. The franchise also has the largest online following with around 7 million players on a daily basis according to Jamie Berger, Activision's vice president of digital for Call of Duty. Given those statistics, it makes sense why Activision might want to find a way to capitalize on it. The real question that they don't have the answer to is, will it work?
Thankfully, players won't need to pay a subscription fee to play the game online like with WoW. The CoD Elite service will be completely optional and offer some Facebook-like features that will allow you to connect with other players through different networks, i.e. your college, the company you work for. They will also offer performance analytics that might help you tweak your game to perfection. The price has yet to be determined but we do know that it will cost less than Netflix at $7.99 a month.
Even if they charge $5 per month it would be the equivalent of selling an extra copy per subscriber on an annual basis. I would actually say this is plausible because of the hardcore, loyal following the franchise has developed. Definitely gamers in this community might be more likely to purchase a reoccurring service than say... any other game out there besides WoW and Hello Kitty: Island Slaughter. Even if this concept proves successful I wouldn't expect to see it happening with any other game franchise. CoD is the exception, not the rule.