Activision boss refutes Call of Duty subscriptions once again

Hirshberg: "We will never, ever charge for the multiplayer"

Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg has responded to ongoing speculation that the company is intending to add a multiplayer payment plan to future Call of Duty games.

"Are we going to be charging for multiplayer? The answer is no," Hirshberg told IndustryGamers.

"The experience you have out of the box, connecting with the online community to play Call of Duty is absolutely integral to the experience... It's not going to be something we'll attempt to monetise; it's part of the package."

Talk of plans for a COD subscription fee has previously been refuted by Activision Blizzard head Bobby Kotick, although it was his own prior comments on the desirability of such a scheme which kick-started the speculation.

A particularly strong voice behind claims that Activision wants to add a fee on top of Xbox Live subscriptions has been Wedbush's Michael Pachter, who at one point predicted such payments for Black Ops. (He later adjusted this assertion).

Observed Hirshberg, "He's probably looking at meta-trends in the world and in culture about online services and new ways things should be monetised from Netflix to cloud-based computing.

"At the end of the day, all I'm trying to get across is I can unequivocally say we will never, ever charge for the multiplayer."

Activision made it clear in a recent investor Q&A that DLC would play a significant part in ongoing Black Ops revenues.

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Latest comments (10)

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany7 years ago
Good, blocking imports of Black Ops uncut from amazon UK to force Germans to buy the notoriously censored version was aggresive enough for me (from a marketing perspective, that is).
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Ben Furneaux Principal Designer 7 years ago
They're not going to charge for multiplayer, but a monthly fee for added 'premium' content that spans all games (maps, weapons, skins, prestige) is surely coming. Activision are all about the money, and this will make them lots of it.
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Kevin Clark-Patterson Lecturer in Games Development, Lancaster and Morecambe College7 years ago
Quick get it in writing: "At the end of the day, all I'm trying to get across is I can unequivocally say we will never, ever charge for the multiplayer."

But thats not to say they wont charge for anything else, greedy Activision!
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Show all comments (10)
Jason Avent VP, Studio Head, NaturalMotion7 years ago
I'd be happy to pay for multi-player Call of Duty. It's really good. If we want more good things, we should ensure they make money.
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Mario Rodriguez Gonzalez Game Evaluation Analyst, Electronic Arts7 years ago
@Jason Avent:

Paying for multiplayer Call of Duty means paying for about 90% of your overall game experience. Non-multiplayer content can be done easily in under 8 hours, and it doesn't offer much replayability save for Zombie mode, which grows old quick anyways.

Are you happy to pay a hefty sum for a small portion of a game's experience and then pay again for the rest? Good. With a lot more like you, I'm pretty sure Activision has "their money" as ensured as they could. I'm not alotgether so sure, however, that this is a business model I'd want to endorse.

CoD multiplayers IS good, very good even. Some of the best I've seen. But fact is, I feel I've more than earned a right to enjoy quite a few hours of it at the very least with the retail price asked for the game. I certainly would feel cheated of my cash if I was forced to pay separately, seeing how single player campaign is little more than a short romp of high-octane action.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 7 years ago
I agree with Ben's comment; they won't make the basic multiplayer chargeable, but I wouldn't be surprised if at some point in the future they implement either a subscription tier service, or introduce a premium rate service to allow early access to new maps or new modes, and so on.

I'm sure Hirshberg has a prominent position within the company, but seeing as Kotick has expressed interest in a subscription model in the past, I expect they're looking at ways to monetise the multiplayer generally whilst still leaving doors open for the general audience to continue playing.
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Richard Gardner Artist, Crytek7 years ago
Subscription, probably not. But I can definatly see them charging for curency to buy unlocks (Black Ops), followed by more of an expansion pack experiance (World of Warcraft) when downloading DLC, allowing you to play all the old maps and old game. But buy and activate an expansion pack and you go into a new tree of weapons unlocks, challenges and map cycles. It makes buying DLC (expansion packs) more of an incentive and without them you would feel less than others. I believe this strategy would make the consumer and publisher very happy people.
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Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts7 years ago
I think Multiplayer should be free as the initial outlay cost of the game should allow for this.

But do agree if they are going to provide quality DLC then its not unfair to ask payment for could be a winner for everyone. More life from the core game and a revenue stream for the studios to make it a business viable decision to produce more DLC.
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Yeah, subscription maybe not, but honestly I doubt they will give up options to sell luxury items and other specialized content for gamers. It honestly is a great way to make killer profit. Look at how Blizzard made out with their 'sparkle poney' for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. How much did they make from that special in game mount?
They would be stupid not to look at every opportunity afforded to them to further monetize this franchise through new kinds of digital content, and other possible luxury items. If they don't have them already they might want to go into the toy market as well with dolls and special vehicles. That is if it is worth it.
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Mike Wells Writer 7 years ago
Ultimately, any publisher of a game with a long online multiplayer life will have to match the business model to the usage. Paying £30-£40 for a 50-hour single-player experience (and often less), after which the player is in the market again for a new game, is the model most have worked to for decades. Something like COD easily delivers several hundred hours of play, reducing the likelihood of further purchases in that window. Result: even those who are regular buyers of new games buy fewer. DLC (and peer pressure over online multiplayer DLC works well) is one way for a publisher to top the revenue up (and mitigate against secondhand market issues), but more and more, publishers will say: "hold on; if you're playing that game for a year or two, why shouldn't we levy a reasonable fee to support that?" Now maybe whatever they get back from Microsoft as a cut of Live subscriptions (or the equivalent on other platforms, if such exists) does that, maybe it doesn't. Someone, somewhere in the chain will have to pay to keep the network running.

The big problem in charging the consumer directly (apart from the natural resistance a change in model will bring) is that if he/she is paying for a specific game then the player has an even stronger case for demanding, perhaps even in law, a certain level of quality of experience (fitness for purpose), which means dealing with the awful matchmaking and lag problems (not to mention systemic cheating using glitches and modded controllers) that actually ruin the experience in games like MW2, BO, etc, a lot of the time. It is unlikely that any publisher would be willing to put the resources necessary into this to deliver a truly premium service (and they can't control the network end-to-end anyway, so would be crazy to offer a guarantee). But wouldn't it be nice if one tried...or at least made some steps to improving what often comes across as an amateurish attempt at delivering 21st century entertainment?
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