It’s been a little since Activision/Blizzard scumhole CEO Bobby Kotick shoved his foot so far into his mouth that it came out his ass – he’s been too busy cornholing his most profitable studio to be verbally inflammatory – but who can forget such lovable quotes as this and this? But the Most Hated Man in Gaming is at it again, telling the Wall Street Journal that fans are “clamoring” for a subscription-based Call of Duty.
Not nearly so much as they’re clamoring for you to be slow-roasted in your own drippings, Bobby.
I’m gonna go out on a small limb here and bet that people almost never “clamor” for the opportunity to pay for stuff they’re used to getting free. And while it may offend Kotick’s sensibilities, free online play has been part of the CoD franchise since the beginning. It’s not like we’re seeing a huge migration to pay-to-play online models, after all. Sure, some games, like MMOGs, typically have a subscription fee; then there are services like Live and GameTap that charge modestly for access. But just as fans erupted when dedicated servers were eliminated from the latest Modern Warfare, so too would they erupt if they were suddenly forced to pay for something that’s usually part of the $60 price of entry. Because I assure you, Call of Duty Online (or whatever) wouldn’t suddenly drop to free for the boxed product just because you’ve got to pay a monthly subscription.
Kotick’s general greed (befitting a man who looks like he ate his family) is well-documented; he’s said flat out he’d raise game prices if he could get away with it. But as the claims that $60 is simply too much for new games grow ever louder, Kotick realizes his hands are tied on the boxed front. Therefore he turns his hunger for cash to subscription models, and what better start than Call of Duty, the beloved franchise that’s made him so rich over the years?
To say fans are “clamoring” for a subscription-based CoD is like saying a burglary victim “wanted” to be robbed. No one wants to pay for something they get free elsewhere, and if Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s success online is any indication, people are getting tired of the missteps they’re seeing in online Call of Duty. EA wants to dominate the online shooter – John Ricitiello has said so. In order to accomplish that, the company has to topple Call of Duty first, and keep an eye on the ongoing Gears of War online community, which does very well on its one-and-a-half platforms. From EA’s perspective, nothing could be better than a subscription-based Call of Duty. With Bad Company 2 widely recognized as the superior multiplay experience, but CoD having the brand cachet, if Activision/Blizzard actually drove consumers away from their product with a new revenue model – if Call of Duty were to Hellgate: London itself, to coin a phrase – the logical refuge for gamers would be EA’s Bad Company series.
Ironic, sort of, that when Kotick fired Infinity Ward, those guys raced to the relative safety of EA, just as gamers might do when Kotick tries to scrape even more pennies from them.
Email the author of this post at email@example.com.
It’s all part of their strategy, as quoted in one of my posts on T-R!, Thomas Tippl, the Activision COO claimed:
(referring to World of Warcraft’s business model) “It’s definitely an aspiration that we see potential in, particularly as we look at different business models to monetize the online gameplay”(…)“you should expect us to test and ultimately launch additional online monetization models of some of some of our biggest franchises like Call of Duty.” (…) “Our gamers are telling us there’s lots of services and innovation they would like to see that they’re not getting yet. From what we see so far, additional content, as well as all the services Blizzard is offering, is that there is demand from the core gamers to pay up for that,”
Additional online monetization models it is then, eh? In other news, she was TOTALLY asking for it, officer.
This could run either way, I think. First person shooters are two-a-penny. Arguably, Call of Duty isn’t even the best in class anymore. Arguably, Modern Warfare 2 wasn’t even the best Call of Duty game. On that basis, this is a tactic that could backfire dangerously.
Then again, you said it yourself. Call of Duty has brand awareness. It has a similar demographic to Grand Theft Auto.. more of a culture product than just a game. People who aren’t gamers will still buy Call of Duty regardless of who makes it or what it does. Taking a cynical view, I’d probably suggest that Activision know this already.
Then again, there was a time where people would buy literally anything with “Guitar Hero” on it, but music game sales have generally slumped in recent times, with some of the spin offs in particular selling very poorly. Are people waking up to Activision? The Xbox 360 is largely considered Call of Dutys strongest platform.. but how many of it’s user base are going to be happy paying £35 to Microsoft and £XX to Activision for one game?
Either way, I’ll have nothing to do with this and will forever hope it fails spectacularly.
I play Call of duty almost every night and everyone I talk to on there keeps saying the same things. “I hate this game I just don’t have anything else to play.” I really want to see how many people are still playing C.O.D. after ghost re-con comes out because I feel that the biggest shift in FPS history is about to happen this year. With all of these games coming out just to take out C.O.D. there will only be one that you will see half of your friendlist playing every night of the week, be it Gears, Medal Of Honor, Bulit Storm, or even Ghost. One of these will take out call of duty, simply because people are sick of the bullshit!
The thing is, the proverbial average Joe is not the one investing meaningful time into online play. It’s the core gamer, the one who actually knows when (s)he is getting screwed. The proverbial average Joe might purchase the next CoD/ MW title on the strength of the brand alone. (S)he might even venture online but it’s highly unlikely that (s)he will actually cough money to play it online month after month. The subscription model is for the ‘core’ gamer and in light of that observation, I think Steerpike’s observations are on the money.
No matter the subject (even if, maybe especially if, it’s a subject I have zero interest in), it’s alway great fun to read Steerpike.
I say go for it. If Kotick has the market research to support his vision (which I’m dead certain he would have), then great.
If players are happy to pay more for better service, patches, updates, expansions etc, and they enjoy it, great.
If players don’t see the value in it, and stop buying the product, great.
Players will vote with their wallets, and if Kotick is wrong, then ActiBlizz will lose money on it (even if they don’t initially lose money, due to successful marketing campaigns – long term they will), and Kotick will perhaps then realise that people are not ‘clamoring’ to pay for anything.
Team Fortress 2 has had 199 updates since it launched, all for free. New weapons for every class, new game modes, tons of maps, tweaks, fixes, opening the entire game up to the community (player submitted hats a weapons) and hats! What’s also refreshing is that Valve are so open about TF2 through the official blog.
What’s more, an MMOG payment model works because they tend to be cheaper to buy initially (£25) and for £8 a month you get regular, large updates. I just can’t see Bobby and his cretins keeping up with Valve or Blizzard in that regard.
Also, I have a sneaky feeling that the new surge in free-to-play online games (Guild Wars has been doing it for a long time) will become very prominent. Lord of the Rings Online has recently announced they too are following this model later this year.
And then Guild Wars 2 will arrive as yet another free MMOG.
I think Mr. Kotick is in a dream land.