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July 6, 2010

Would you pay to play Call of Duty online? The insane reaction

Wow, the peasants are revolting!  You'd think Bobby Kotick had just publicly ordered a mob hit or something.

What am I talking about?  I'm talking about the latest Kotick (Activision president, for those living under a video game rock) brainchild regarding implementing a Call of Duty subscription service to play it online.  In the article Game Informer links to, Kotick is quoted as saying that 60% of Xbox Live Gold subscribers do so in order to play Call of Duty.  I would love to see where he gets that stat, as it seems to me more likely that 60% of Xbox Live Gold subscribers may *play* Call of Duty, but that's not the only reason they have the subscription.  I play it, but I also play other games online, and I like to take advantage of the Deals of the Week (which are only for Gold subscribers), among other things.

Anyway, this all leads to the point of this article, which is to question some of the insane reactions to this, as well as other things Activision has done or announced.

First, a disclaimer:  Dan Americh, former Official Xbox Magazine writer and now Community Manager for Activision, is a long time gaming idol of mine, ever since I started listening to the OXM podcast when he and Ryan were doing it.  If you think that this admission makes my post meaningless and biased, well, that's too bad.

Ok, so Activision (and Kotick more specifically) has done and said some incredibly stupid things (some of them taken out of context, but still, they could usually have been worded better).  I'm questioning the logic behind this Call of Duty move myself.  This will never happen on Xbox Live (and probably not PSN either, though I admittedly don't know the difference between PSN and PSN plus so I don't know how this will affect the situation) because people are already paying a subscription fee for Live.  Very few people will pay an *additional* fee on top of the Gold subscription.  And besides, isn't the fact that Microsoft wants a cut of any subscription fees the main barrier for any MMOs to come over to Xbox?

I am questioning the reaction to this news as well, though.  The whining and gnashing of teeth can be heard through my computer's speakers. Most of it can be summarized in a couple of ways.

1) Cries of "Activision is just out to make money!!!!" abound.  Um, isn't that what a business does?  Make money, and try to make more money?

If they come up with a subscription service that actually does some really cool things, then people will plunk down their money for it.  If they don't, then people won't and it will be a miserable failure.

A secondary comment is "They're just destroying the franchise because they're trying to make a buck.  Look what they did to Guitar Hero."

Yeah, and they have basically admitted their mistake with Guitar Hero, only coming out with the main game this year, along with DJ Hero 2.  They've pretty much said (and Americh has openly stated) that they went too far last year and sales suffered for it.  I would hope that they learned their lesson with that, but we shall see.

2) Another summarized comment is "If they do this, I'm never buying another CoD or Activision game again."

Yeah, that's a good thought.  Punish Treyarch not because you don't like their CoD games (which, while I don't necessarily agree with it, is a valid comment), but because they happen to be associated with Activision.  That will teach them, if Treyarch goes under!  They should have found another publisher for their games!  Screw them!

Or, an even better example, why should Bizarre Creations (makers of Blur and, my favourite current arcade game, Geometry Wars) be punished because of Activision's actions regarding CoD?  What did Bizarre ever do to you?

That's why I don't understand publisher boycotts.  You're hurting the individual developer a *lot* more than you are the publisher.  The development company's going to go under before the publisher, and they may have some great games there!  I understand a developer boycott (like the Treyarch haters) a lot more than a publisher one.

Personally,  I prefer a game boycott.  If the game sucks, I boycott it.  Works for me!

3) Then there's the "That's why Activision got rid of the guys at Infinity Ward - because they didn't want to pay out their royalties.  Because all the want is MONEY!!!!!"

Obviously I can't say that this isn't true, but I can say that we don't know what the truth is on this, and won't until it goes to court (if it ever does).  I'm not going to go into detail on the accusations regarding this, mainly because I don't know the truth.

And frankly, unless you're actually involved in the lawsuit, neither do you.  So making possibly baseless accusations doesn't really strengthen your cause and just makes you look lame.

Getting back to this CoD subscription service idea, many commenters are missing what Kotick said regarding consoles.  He basically admits that it will never happen on Xbox because people are already paying subscription fees for it.  Yet how many "I'm already paying for Gold, so there's no way I'm paying just to play CoD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" comments are on there?  A LOT.

Do I think this is a good idea?  Personally, no, I don't.  I would never play it.  However, will it work?  It depends on what they create.  There's no way anybody will pay for the current MW2 multiplayer on a subscription basis.  But if they do something creative that makes enough people feel it's worth their while? Then it might work.

But feel free to continue going over the top in reacting to all of this.  Just keep in mind that you're not doing yourself any favours, and your complaint is lost in the excess of vitriol.

Maybe you don't care about that, though. Any excuse to rant.


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