Activision's much-anticipated first-person shooter "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" is less than a month away from release, but the company is already ramping up more support for the title by switching gears on its online "Elite" service.
Introduced last year with the blockbuster "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" game, "Elite" is a stat-tracking and programming service that caters specifically to fans of the series. It keeps track of player and "clan" (group) status, and provides original video programming, such as the Tony Scott- and Ridley Scott-produced "Friday Night Fights," among other shows.
When it originally launched last year, "Elite" was available for a yearly subscription rate of $50. However, with "Black Ops II" on the horizon, Activision will now offer all of its "Elite" services free of charge, starting on the sequel's release date. This includes the aforementioned stat-tracking and modification tools ("Player HQ" and "Clan HQ"), as well as the "Call of Duty: Elite TV" programming and social networking support. Activision will also introduce a new "Zombies Support" channel, which will let you track your progress, compared with others, in the specific zombie survival maps coming to the game.
However, Activision did state that downloadable content for the game, mainly with new multiplayer maps and weapons, would remain available for a separate fee. (It was originally bundled with "Elite" last year.) Xbox Live subscribers can invest in a Season Pass that gives them access to the entire batch of downloadable content for the game for 4,000 Microsoft points ($50). Maps packs can still be purchased separately for 1,200 Microsoft points ($15). (No word yet on a launch date for the Season Pass for PlayStation 3 or Wii U, but an announcement should be made soon.)
Shifting a majority of the "Elite" services to no-cost features should open the door to a multitude of players looking to track their progress and customize their "clan" features within the game. The only question now is if long-time subscribers would get something for their trouble, like a discount on the full game or the Season Pass. We'll find out soon enough, as we'll follow up with Activision before the game's release.
"Call of Duty: Black Ops II" hits stores on Nov. 13 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and Nov. 18 for the Wii U. Prices haven't been announced yet, but the games are expected to run $60 apiece.