Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is likely to carry the same $60 price tag as its predecessors, but this time that will come with an asterisk. That's because the game will add a new service called Call of Duty Elite, which will charge players a monthly fee to use all of the title's online features.
According to a Wall Street Journal report that broke this story, it doesn't look like gamers will be required to pay for the service, but those who do will have enhanced functionality, including an exclusive social network and in-depth performance tracking and analysis.
The move highlights the changing economics of the video game industry. Years ago, consumers would pay $50 for a video game, play it, beat it, and then pay $50 for their next game. Today, however, gamers are paying $50-$60 for a game, and then they never stop playing it. Thanks to the explosion of online console gaming, it's no longer a stale experience, yet the cost is pretty much the same.
That's taking its toll on developers and publishers, who can't sustain a market where gamers don't feel the need to constantly buy new games. As such, they're turning to ways to nickel-and-dime players within the games themselves.
Subscription-based gaming is nothing new. It is a bedrock of the PC game market, but when it comes to console games, there is far less precedent, and when it comes to games like Call of Duty, it's almost unheard of. Most games with a monthly fee are massively multiplayer online games, which require huge server costs and let gamers roam around in online worlds for hours at a time. Call of Duty is not that kind of game.
More details are expected to trickle out over the next few days, though it remains unclear how much the service will cost. Modern Warfare 3 is schedule for a November 8 release date on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.