Call of Duty Elite adds social networking to hit video game series

(CBS/AP) - Activision is launching an online service for its "Call of Duty" games that's part Facebook, part player matchmaker and part organized sports.

"Call of Duty: Elite" officially launches on Nov. 8 with the next installment of the series, Activision said Tuesday. A test 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 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.

"Elite" will be accessible from game consoles, computers and smartphones. 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 $60 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, such as the ability to play multiplayer games.

  • Edecio Martinez

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