Oct. 15, 2012 at 1:48 PM ET
Fans of the enormously popular Call of Duty game franchise got some good news Monday when publisher Activision announced that it is no longer going to charge a subscription fee for access to Call of Duty Elite.
Starting with the launch of "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" on Nov. 13, all of the game's players will have free access to Call of Duty Elite — an online social network-style service based around the military shooter franchise.
Call of Duty Elite — which launched in conjunction with last year's "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" game — offers players a variety of community features: skills tracking, video sharing and multiplayer match-making among others. When it first launched, it came with both a free and a premium option. The premium option cost a $50 annual fee and gave subscribers early access to downloadable map packs at a discounted price as well as access to some additional social features.
But that is no longer going to be the case.
"We've learned a lot in our first year of Call of Duty Elite and we’re very proud that we over delivered on our commitment of playable content to our premium members," said Activision Publishing CEO, Eric Hirshberg in the announcement. "What we have realized is that several of the Call of Duty Elite services which are currently only available to our premium members for 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3' are things that would further unite, engage and delight our player community. So we are going to make them free for Call of Duty: Black Ops II."
The downloadable map packs that were previously made available early to premium Elite members, will now be separated out from the Elite service and sold both individually and through the new "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" Season Pass. There will be four map packs released in 2013 featuring a variety of new multiplayer and zombie-themed gameplay, Activision announced. Season Pass holders will get all four for the discounted price of $49.99. Players can also buy each map individually for $15.
Activision says that those who have an existing Call of Duty Elite premium subscription will continue to have access to those extra features as they apply to "Modern Warfare 3" through the end of their current subscription period.
Meanwhile, Activision outlined some of the new and enhanced features that will be part of Call of Duty Elite for "Black Ops 2" when it launches (check out the video above). Among them:
Player HQ – Players can track their "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" performance with this rich array of game statistics, including enhanced match information such as heat maps and recent match data. You can also track challenges and extensively modify your classes using Treyarch's new Pick 10 Create-a-Class system.
Clan HQ – Join an existing clan or start your own, invite friends and then take part in Call of Duty: Black Ops II clan competitions which come with digital prizes.
Zombies Support – Ttrack your personal statistics in the zombie-themed gameplay coming to "Black Ops 2" and compare it to other players' around the world.
Call of Duty Elite TV – This feature will deliver developer tips and strategy programming, custom class overviews and more and will come with tablet support.
Social Sharing and Notifications – Elite's new notification system will help players stay updated with "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" news as well as communicate directly with clan members.
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti, and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.