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Call of Duty Elite


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Activision knows it's more fun to blast on-screen enemies into oblivion with friends, so this fall it's launching an online service for its Call of Duty games that's part Facebook, part player matchmaker and part organized sports.

It's the logical next step for Activision Blizzard Inc., whose Call of Duty franchise has enjoyed unprecedented success. The latest title, Black Ops, has sold 22 million copies worldwide since its November launch. More than 7 million people play every day online.

The service officially launches on Nov. 8 with the next Call of Duty game. A beta version will be available before that, but Activision isn't saying when.

Two years in the making by a specially-created game studio called Beachhead, the service, Call of Duty: Elite, lets players form groups, compete by skill level or interest, share statistics like baseball fans, and create video clips of their best Call of Duty moments, among other things.

The service will be accessible on a number of platforms - via web browsers, mobile devices, through game consoles and within the game interface itself - so that players can connect with Call of Duty Elite whenever and wherever they want.

It's as if "social networks and organized sports had a baby and they gave that baby a flamethrower," as Activision puts it.

Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, calls it a response to the rise of social networking. "A way to think about this - the NFL used to be something you could only interact with on Sunday. Then, things like fantasy football and ESPN started surrounding it," Hirshberg said.

Online services are also the next step for the broader video game industry, which must figure out how to offer players experiences that go beyond the £45 video game discs that, Call of Duty aside, have seen bumpy sales as people flock to cheaper games from Angry Birds to FarmVille.

Activision is not saying what it plans to charge for access to Elite, though it's likely to be in the form of monthly or yearly subscriptions possibly combined with the sale of virtual items and extra content for the games. Hirshberg stressed that the company won't start charging for anything currently available to "Call of Duty" players for free.

Call of Duty Elite's features and services engage the community in three key ways:

  • Connect : Call of Duty Elite gives players unprecedented control over their multiplayer experience, transforming it into a true social network. Players can compete against friends, players of similar skill levels and players with similar interests, join groups, join clans, and play in organised tournaments. They can also track the performance, progress and activity of their entire network, both in the game itself, as well as through mobile and web interfaces. Elite will be an "always on" way for players to connect with the Call of Duty community.
  • Compete: Call of Duty Elite establishes the most exciting, competitive environment in a multiplayer game. Players will have available a constant stream of events and competitions, tiered to group them with those with similar abilities . Both in-game and real-world prizes will be rewarded to all skill levels.
  • Improve: Call of Duty Elite is like having a personal online coach. It provides players with a dynamic strategy guide that tracks their statistics and performances down to the most minute details. It can show gamers how they stack up against their friends or others in the community. Tools and information are provided so players can learn and up their game.
  • Carrying forward to future Call of Duty games, Elite will chronicle a player's gameplay history in a cohesive career record, keeping track of every kill, every game and progress.

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