Just when you may have thought Activision was shooting blanks, holding only stale ideas for its perennial shooter, they follow through with Call of Duty Elite. In a true show of the capabilities held by the largest interactive entertainment company Earth’s seen since the Coliseum, Activision created and staffed Beachhead Studios, which promptly hammered out a product that will function alongside every single Call of Duty game until the end of time. All within about a year. It must help to own an entire continent made of money that they can harvest from time to time.
All of the companion tools embodied in COD Elite are inherently social in nature, governed by a philosophy that encourages clan creation and organization, broadcasting videos made in their new capture tool, sharing stats, etc. From a purely strategic point of view it’s brilliant: it provides them opportunity to trumpet an innovation without actually doing any hard thinking about how to keep their unending flow of shooters fresh. It simultaneously creates powerful incentives for your average FPS fan to stick with COD over its many competitors.
There’s tons of different features and trackers included in the new software bound for the PS3 and 360, so I’ll only bother to point out some of the more impressive specifics. Its baseline function is the least inspired: players will have their PSN or XBOX Live accounts tied to any online profile that can be used to chat, share media, etc. Virtually everything you’re able to do when signed into your profile and not playing a game you can now do from any internet capable device, including novel tricks like changing your class load-outs in the middle of a game to adjust your tactics.
Except now the tracked statistics are far more robust – things truly start to get interesting when you look at the “Improvement” options. Elite will automatically track every kill and death you experience on every map in every game mode with every gun (plus accessories). I didn’t have too much time to fiddle with the system myself, but the filtering toolset for organizing according to your selection of variables was a breeze to operate. We were working with the developer’s profile that was walking me through everything: configuring the right constants, we saw that the accuracy benefit provided by his red dot sight was pretty paltry on Free For All matches, but was statistically significant on modes like Domination. The take away in this example was that he needed to slow down his pacing during FFA to maybe take greater advantage of the sight, or replace it with another attachment that he’d truly benefit from.
On top of that, Elite will generate heat maps showing, say, what areas you get the most kills in with a specific gun. We compared the kill and death heat maps for his chosen sniper rifle and discerned that many of his sniping spots outright sucked, calling for better selection or an entirely new approach. The potential here to up your game is obviously palpable. To my knowledge, these kinds of statistics and methods for organization have never been implemented in a social way on this scale before (there are currently 30 million people actively playing COD games each month). If the broader COD audience embraced these improvement tools wholesale, could we expect a general rise in the quality of competitive play?
Elite will cross-interface with Facebook, YouTube, all the usual suspects. What’s critical though is that it remain the hub and homepage for all things COD social; this much it deserves. Why? Because Elite brings something to the table that’s unique and of considerable interest for their community on top of all the endlessly reproducible social network bullshit. Sony and Microsoft should be taking notes as Elite is rolled out and improved, since it’s likely that Activision is going to pull off in one year what they’ve been taking stabs at since 2004, albeit on a much more contained scale.