The term "Elite" suggests the best of the best, an exclusive level of excellence reserved for a select few. If one analyst's prediction holds true, the members of Activision's Call of Duty Elite subscription service will be anything but exclusive.
Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter today released a note to investors giving a glowing appraisal of Activision's service, saying it represents a "great value" for gamers and a chance to pad out the books with high profit margin revenue for the publisher. Launching alongside Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on November 8, Call of Duty Elite gives players access to all of the game's downloadable content and access to competitions, premium video content, and more in exchange for a $50 annual membership fee.
Pachter expects the offering to be popular with players, suggesting that "at least 1 million" will sign up for Call of Duty Elite by the end of 2011. The analyst has mapped out a bright future for Elite, projecting the service's full first year to attract 2 million subscribers, growing to 3 million by the end of 2012 and 5 million at the conclusion of 2013.
While Pachter doesn't expect Activision to raise prices on Elite for its first two years, he suggested that the publisher may want to ratchet up the annual fee once it gains traction with the audience. That's not the only change Pachter expects Activision to make a little further down the road.
"Longer-term, we expect Activision to generate additional incremental Call of Duty revenue as the service grows in popularity, and we expect the creation of an online store similar to Diablo III's auction house," Pachter said. "We believe that the online store will allow Call of Duty Elite gamers to buy and sell different items, with Activision potentially receiving a flat listing fee, a flat sale fee, and a percentage of any balance that is cashed out using a third-party payment provider."
If Call of Duty Elite takes off like Pachter projects, the analyst expects the competition to mimic the service. Pachter said Elite's main competition will be Battlefield 3's Battlelog service, which includes many of the statistics and social tools of the free version of the Elite service. However, Pachter said EA is likely to include its own downloadable map packs into the Battlelog service, giving it a reason to charge a similar $50 fee for a premium membership.
For more on Call of Duty Elite, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.