Activision Blizzard, they behind the three monstrous franchises in the MMO/FPS/RTS gaming world (World of Warcraft/Call of Duty/Starcraft respectively), announced that the next instalment of the CoD series, Modern Warfare 3, will see the implementation of a new service called Call of Duty Elite (more here). It will feature things like a social network, extra maps and tools for analysing players’ performance in-game. The good news is that this service will charge a monthly fee. How unexpected!
That was sarcasm in the last sentence, in case you haven’t noticed. ActiBlizzard have been trying to milk any kind of bodily fluid from the Call of Duty cow for a while now. The sequels are released on a yearly basis (with the last one netting over 1 billion green ones) and DLCs with new maps are frequently released at rip-off prices.
The games aren’t innovative or breakthrough achievements, but rather adequate shooters. How the developer finds suckers that will pay 60$ for a game that’s basically the same as the one that was released last year, or a 15$ for a pack of three or so new maps, is beyond me. They’ll also probably find suckers who will pay the 8$ subscription fee to get a glorified Face of Duty-Book, maybe a few maps and a system that tells you how accurate you are with what weapon, your best maps and the number of times you teabagged someone, which incidentally, is mostly what modern FPS games offer for free (if you’re willing to calculate some stuff on your own, the numbers are all accessible). But who cares. Here’s the important bit.
ActiBlizzard have realised that the DLC/new sequel release cycle isn’t optimal for sucking their customers dry, the optimal method is the sequel release cycle WITH a subscription fee. A subscription fee is almost the same as frequent DLC releases, but it looks like it’s more fair (since you’re paying for a service, not just five maps) and it’s more effective (15$ every few months isn’t as good as 8$ every month). It seems as if they’ve adopted the MMO pricing model for a non-MMO game.
How does that make sense? You can try to justify the subscription model for an MMO by listing the server and development costs and saying that the initial box sales don’t cover them. Which is a stretch in itself, since Arena Net have shown with Guild Wars that initial box sales can cover the costs of the development and at least a year of patching/server costs (which means that most other MMO developers are either money grabbing bastards or terribly inefficient with their funds). But here we have ActiBlizzard, a developer/publisher with extensive MMO and multiplayer game development experience, claiming that their social network, profile analyzing tools, extra maps and other tidbits justify not only a (large) one time payment, but a monthly fee. I find that hard to believe.
Call me a cynic (but not a dutiful one *snigger*), as on many other occasion, but I see ActiBlizzard as the classic case of a capitalist magnate. Most revenue from a product sale is invested into increasing the rate and quantity of production, which further increases revenue, which in turn further speeds up the production (all while seemingly also trying to scam the customers). Quality is disregarded in favour of quantity, because it translates into more money.
I would honestly endorse the growth of the gaming industry if the growth wasn’t fueled by the disregard for quality. I do not want to see popular games degrade into something resembling popular music, films or books, which will happen if we give developers like Activision Blizzard free rein. Which is why I decided not to give any of my money to them in the future (yes, that includes not playing Diablo 3).
I’m not expecting everyone to do the same in a true revolutionist fashion and this post isn’t really intended to spark anything besides discussion. It just seemed like something worth posting. Now I’m off to gallop around on my high horse.
Edit: I completely forgot about the recent WoW premium service shenanigans. Damn it! Now I’ll have to go rerun my “How big of a scam is it?” measurement on Activision Blizzard. The Scam-a-tron was overheating on the last reading, I think it might explode this time. Send flowers if I don’t post in the next few days.