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Call of Duty Elite: 'We're continually developing new features'

Activision gives us a progress report four months after the online service's launch

Activision launched Call of Duty Elite alongside Modern Warfare 3 last November. A new online platform that promised to "unite and ignite gaming's largest online community", it offers a range of features for paying subscribers and non-premium members designed to enhance the franchise's multiplayer experience and increase social engagement among players.

After suffering a few early hiccups and an indefinite delay to the PC version, the service has attracted over seven million users and new content - from stat-tracking features to original TV shows and DLC - is rolling out thick and fast. We recently had the opportunity to get a progress report from Mark Cox, European marketing director for Call of Duty digital products, and Beachhead Studios product director Noah Heller, and chat about how the service will evolve in the coming months.

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Beachhead Studios product director Noah Heller

Can you give us a new update on the number of paying Elite subscribers, and how many other people are using the free services?

MC: We've got seven million people using the free services, and our latest announcement on paying subscribers was in February, when we said there were 1.5 million.

Adoption has been high, but what kind of follow-up engagement stats can you share that would give us an idea how much time players are spending with Elite and which areas of it they're gravitating towards?

MC: Well we know have 670,000 clans and we started running Clan Operations last month. We had 25,000 clans take part, about 200,000 people in total. What we're seeing operationally, within events, is high levels of engagement, whether it's competing for digital badges you can win using the service, and when it comes to our high value prizes.

Our first Clan Operation was digital badging only, but we also run what we call $100,000 games, which happen every four to six weeks, when we basically give away things like, last month for example, two Call of Duty Jeeps, one to PS3 players and one to Xbox 360 ones. For the one we ran last weekend we had ATVs, snowmobiles and holidays in Hawaii as prizes, and obviously we see very high levels of engagement when consumers are playing for real world prizes.

NH: Another thing we're seeing with Clan Operations is clan leaders saying to other members, 'Everyone get on board, we're going to compete in this.' Some of the stuff we've been showing today include changes to the Elite Clan Title, so you can now choose to wear the uniform of your clan, which is something that was delivered in an update. We're continuously making updates to the game to pay off on these clan community features because they've proven really popular.

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A Call of Duty Jeep

Elite was built around an existing franchise, but in the future, do you think elements of new Call of Duty games could be built around Elite? For example, there could be exclusive maps, modes or weapons, or a map editor, designed exclusively for paying Elite subscribers. Have you had these discussions at Activision?

NH: Not any that I've been party to. I think it's important to us to view the community as one big entity and not divide it up into camps. That's part of the reason why there's so much to do as a free Elite member. What we have talked about is much deeper integration of the service with the game. So at the moment, if I boot up the console Elite app from Modern Warfare 3, I can go and sign up for tournaments then and there, but you still have to boot the separate application. So with next year's game we're looking to make that integration a lot tighter and deeper.

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