Call of Duty: Elite confirmed as premium-tier service, MW3 multiplayer still free

[UPDATE] Activision is planning to launch subscription service alongside Modern Warfare 3; will feature extra maps, free Facebook-like social network; beta begins this summer; first trailer inside.

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The Wall Street Journal has confirmed speculation that the online service Activision is planning for the Call of Duty franchise will indeed be called Call of Duty: Elite. Speculation about the name surfaced earlier this month when a logo for Elite surfaced online. The service is being developed by a recently formed internal studio, Beachhead.

Call of Duty: Elite will add a premium layer of content onto Modern Warfare 3, but multiplayer will remain free.
Call of Duty: Elite will add a premium layer of content onto Modern Warfare 3, but multiplayer will remain free.

As suspected, COD: Elite will be a premium service offering extra content for a monthly fee, not an attempt to charge for multiplayer gameplay. In fact, some of the content offered on Elite, such as a Facebook-like social networking aspect, will be completely free.

"COD ELITE is free, for all players, some paid aspects TBD. Absolutely NO fee to play #MW3 multiplayer. Detailed reveal coming tomorrow AM," tweeted Infinity Ward creative consultant Robert Bowling Monday night. "#MW3 multiplayer is free to play as it always is."

According to the Journal, Activision executives expect the monthly cost for COD: Elite to be less than that of Netflix's lowest-level service, which costs $8/month. In exchange for that fee, subscribers will get access to more map packs and analytical tools that will let players gauge their in-game performance according to kills by weapon type and other factors.

Speaking with the Journal, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said that the service is intended to supplement the Call of Duty experience and emphasized that the multiplayer aspect of Modern Warfare 3 will remain free. He also said that customer service for Elite is so extensive that the service couldn't be supported for free.

[UPDATE] Activision has now formally announced Call of Duty: Elite, saying "many key features" of the service will be free. It also confirmed that the premium level of the service will include "a wide range of state-of-the-art services, exclusive entertainment programming and all-inclusive game content for less than the cost of any comparable online entertainment service currently in the market." The company did not, however, announce the price of the service.

Activision also revealed that Elite will be the stage for a variety of Modern Warfare 3 competitions, as well as undefined "events." Both types of festivities will see the doling out of both in-game and real-world prizes to winners. A just-released trailer for the service (see below) reveals that Elite's social aspect will let players form groups and clans, as well as share films of themselves in action.

A public beta for Call of Duty: Elite will begin this summer using Call of Duty: Black Ops, with sign-ups already under way at http://www.callofduty.com/elite. However, when the service launches on November 8, it will be "fully" integrated with Modern Warfare 3, allowing for two-way communication between Elite and the game. That means that actions made in Elite--which can be accessed via mobile devices, PCs, consoles, and games themselves--will affect users' in-game experience.

For a detailed examination of Call of Duty: Elite, check out GameSpot's extensive preview of the service.

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