Call of Duty: Elite--Chacko Sonny Q&A

We sit down with Beach Head Studio head Chacko Sonny to discuss the origin of Elite, Call of Duty Facebook integration, and giving away Jeeps.

Activision's bigwigs have long expressed an interest in monetising the Call of Duty multiplayer experience, and while they have vehemently ruled out charging for gamers to play online, that doesn't mean that they don't have other ways to turn a buck. During Activision's pre-E3 media events, we had a chance to try out Call of Duty: Elite, the company's subscription-based social service launching later this year. We sat down with Beach Head Studio boss Chacko Sonny to discuss the origin of the idea and where the company may take the service in the future. For an overview of What Call of Duty: Elite is, check out our first look preview at the service in action.

GameSpot AU: Why is Facebook important to Call of Duty: Elite?

Chacko Sonny: We like Facebook integration in the sense that it gives us another way of enabling discovery of people. The way Facebook integration works now is that if you have linked your Facebook, you will be able to import your friends if they've played Black Ops or, going forward, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 if they've linked a console identity.

There may be people, we know this is the case from people we've spoken to in closed beta, and within the studio, we showed them this function and they were like, "I don't even know this person was playing Black Ops, or this was this person's gamer-tag." It becomes a really great way to get additional ways of discovering people who you can connect with around Call of Duty. The other element we're looking at around Facebook is potentially using some of your data from Facebook, if people give us access to it, to automatically populate you within groups. It's a way to say, "These are the friends I'm interested in. Let me have a group created around them." And that's a great way to get them into the groups instantly.

GS AU: Tell us about the evolution of the Call of Duty: Elite concept.

CS: Evolution is a really good word for it--the term I always use, at the risk of overusing it. The lead project started very much under the radar. A lot of people kind of knew this was something we wanted to do, but there was a lot of research into what was the right way to do this with the Call of Duty community. I think the "aha!" moment, where we really started to understand this was something we needed to do, was when we saw how tremendously we were fragmenting the audience for Call of Duty with every successive game we were releasing. As the franchise continued to push forward, people weren't abandoning these old games. They kept on playing them in massive numbers, and as a result, we had all these communities that were separate and discrete. We wanted to find a way to bring them all together to create this overall Call of Duty: Elite identity that can persist across the franchise. That was the moment where we really picked up steam, and the integration with the game teams and the coordination with Treyarch and Infinity Ward helped propel that forward in terms of what we could do with all the data being pushed out of this game.

GS AU: You wanted to bring this service to market, but was this something the community was actively asking for?

CS: Community was huge in the development of Elite. There was a tremendous amount of feedback we got from Treyarch in terms of figuring out what the community wanted and how to use that data, as well as ways to better surface the information that was already there, and new ways to use that information. Community will always be a critical part of that development.

GS AU: Beyond simply serving it up for users in a digestible format, what are you doing with all the data being generated by these games being played? Is that being fed back to the development process as a form of telemetry data to help with future game development?

CS: I won't speak for the game teams, but there is a tremendous amount of data coming out of the game. That information is valuable from a design perspective, but I can't say anything more than that.

GS AU: We saw that Elite includes a levelling system based on the number of users in a particular group. Will we see that system expand to include support for World of Warcraft guild levelling-style bonuses?

CS: I can't speak to anything other than what we currently have planned. Right now, groups are our loose affiliation. The goal there is to get people into a number of groups, and we will try and incentivise that in a number of different ways. One of the ways that we're going to do that is with events going on from time to time, like baseball playoffs. We'll sponsor groups and say, "Hey, join this group and we'll see who's the biggest group, Yankees versus Red Sox," so there will be motivation there. That's what we're talking about right now.

GS AU: Let's talk regionalisation. In terms of competitions like the iPad screenshot competition we've seen, will that be offered to all global players, or will it be done on a region-by-region basis?

CS: The whole service organisation is dedicated to making sure we have content that is suitable and appropriate for each of the territories we're going to be in. The best example I use is that while NFL playoffs are really popular here, we don't necessarily want that set of featured groups over in England. Premier league might be more appropriate there, and we'd do the same thing for rugby.

GS AU: How will it work, and what can people win?

CS: There are two tiers of prizing: there's digital prizing and real-world prizing. Digital will be badges and awards. In terms of real-world prizing, there's everything from, on the smaller end, belt buckles, or Xboxes, or iPads, all the way up to Jeeps. There's going to be some pretty big giveaways that we're going to be managing, so there's a full range there, and we really want to make it such that everyone feels like they have a chance to win something.

GS AU: Chacko, thanks for your time.

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Discussion

26 comments
baba_maal
baba_maal

It was nice to know you COD. Ahem ahem....Hiiiiiiiiiiii BF3 how are youuuuuuuuu would you like to have a cup of tea with me?????

Tgd11
Tgd11

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Darth_Starwind
Darth_Starwind

Common Gamespot, why the generic questions? You should be asking how Activision can justify charging people a fee per month for a service that Bungie (pre-Activision) and other companies give for free and not worrying about stepping on toes. Make Activision sweat a little.

UnSe3N
UnSe3N

Good bye Call of Duty. Wake me up when Respawn makes a game.

SPURSfan
SPURSfan

So long Call of Duty. Battlefield 3, here I come.

trasherhead
trasherhead

Im just wondering how much of the MP disc content they remove and put into this service. Cause we know that they can't put out more then 2-3 map packs a year. So if they are going to make subscriptions... Just saying. They will have to get the content somewhere.

jaysmgr18
jaysmgr18

This "service" is no doubt an effort for Activision to make more money. Thats what business is all about. Trying to make another dollar. Why do you think they are now charging for the Map Packs, which were FREE until MW2. I am curious to see how this works out. I mean, the PC users have Steam to manage friends and join groups, etc... I wonder if they will get away from the Steam community in the future and have everything within the Activision camp. At least the game will still be playable without the "ELITE" service.

Banjo2E
Banjo2E

Activision: "Ok name some ways that we can get more money out of our fans." "Hmmm... I know! Let's make a Call of Duty Console! And charge them 15 dollars a month for online capabilities!"

blakeney
blakeney

@capthappy8p "It seems they are trying to milk an additional 60 bucks a year out of our wallets." They are doing exactly that.....do you like cod enough to want to give more milk, thats the question ;)

CCGR_Pheonix
CCGR_Pheonix

It is still lost to me why people actually want to become more connected with the Call of Duty community. Most people I meet online are not--ahem--cool, nice, or fun to virtually hang out with. No offense if you play COD a lot, just all the people I've run into.

capthappy8p
capthappy8p

Im sorry this content should be free, expecially since the hardcore fans pay on average 90 bucks for the game (60game+30dlc). It seems they are trying to milk an additional 60 bucks a year out of our wallets.

TugaSoldatTV
TugaSoldatTV

wooooo! finally we have Facebook on CoD! Dreams came true, finally!!!!! WOOOOO! LIKE LIKE LIKE LIIIIIIIKEEEEEE! I'll even pay 1000 dollars for it, i mean, my parents will!

pixel_perfect
pixel_perfect

If they have a separate matchmaking server for the elite members I'm all for it. It will create a clear divide between the most hardcore players who religiously monitor their KDs and those who play casually.

Edged_out
Edged_out

Have now lost intrest in MW£, i mean MW3, sorry about the mistake its an easy one to make ;¬)

AlbertLucianto
AlbertLucianto

I'd seen BF3 & MW3 trailer, and i think MW3 is not so good, MW3 is nothing if you compare with BF3 in graphics MW2 is better than BBC2, but not in gameplay BBC2 u can ruin the building, but CoD can't!!

XSV-Vendetta
XSV-Vendetta

Well it's not like we have to do it; the online gameplay is still free the premium features are stat tracking things and prize entries, BFD. I have to know what happens next in the story, I like it far too much to not be interested.

zac32
zac32

Downfall! Bye2

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

i think its only worth it if you play cod a lot, otherwise dont bother

jasonzilla11
jasonzilla11

Really? $5 a month for just some kind of stupid Facebook integration and community cr@p when I can just play the stupid game and not worry about my money being wasted on stupid crapola-wola Facebook? Really?

NightDrifter05
NightDrifter05

I will gladly pay for this as long as they offer premium servers so all the stupid broke kid's won't get put into my matches. Not to mention it's going to be less then $8 a month and you get all the DLC for free so it will be MORE then worth it. The only way this could get any better was if you had to pay to play and they give you everything else for free.

servb0ts
servb0ts

COD=Collect Our Dollars developers needs to stop smoking that crack, an expect gamers, to pay them to support their crack habits.

gerhardtscriven
gerhardtscriven

what a bloody insult. They believe the players to be this stupid... actually this stupid, to *pay* for this?

final_brawl
final_brawl

Absolutely NOT. No. I will NOT be buying this! PLease Thumbs up if you agree!

DWade3Official
DWade3Official

That is a stupid idea making people pay for things. I mean I like the idea of buying DLC from the online store for $5.99 instead of paying for a $5.99 monthly fee for this Call of Duty Elite. You guys are crazy if you think that is going to happen and lose a lot of customers. Activision better not ruin this game I am looking forward to playing it and I have no problem investing in BF3 if I have to...

silverfox11202
silverfox11202

I'm more into playing split screen with my friends than compete with people who usually play online most of their life, so this doesn't look like something I would put my money into.