Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg told DICE attendees the birthing of social service Call of Duty: Elite was problematic for everyone involved.
Speaking in Las Vega last week, Hirshberg discussed some of the headaches the company experienced in launching Call of Duty: Elite, the first being shaky tech.
“We had some technological stumbles at launch and that frustrated some of our fans. We’re still making that right,” he said, as reported by GamesIndustry.
A second problem arose as Activision considered how to market a premium service to an established community of players used to shelling out for a disc alone – quite a hard sell, especially as Activision couldn’t show off premium features at launch.
“We chose to tell people right out of the gate that while the vast majority of features would be free, there would be a premium membership. A lot people thought we should have waited and show people what they get for the premium membership before talking about its existence. But we knew this question about whether it would be free would immediately be asked,” Hirshberg remembered.
“The words ‘Call of Duty’ plus the word ‘subscription’ equals ‘unleash blogger hell,’” he added, describing the months following the announcement as “the most painful summer of Google Alerts I’ve ever lived through”.
Even the question of whether to launch a beta or not proved knotty.
“We wanted to do a beta. None of the features were going to demonstrable in the beta because they were all tied into the code of Modern Warfare 3 and the beta was going to be Black Ops multiplayer,” Hirshberg explained.
“With the launching of Elite we had a marketing Sophie’s Choice. Do we do the beta, which is the right thing to do from a development standpoint, or do we make the best possible first impression, which was probably the right thing to do from the marketing standpoint.”
Although Call of Duty Elite now had 1.5 million premium subscribers among its 7 million members, Hirshberg says Activision won’t rest on its laurels yet.
“Even though we’ve had some early success with the numbers, it’s far from time for us to be doing any victory laps on Elite,” he said.
Hirshberg’s candid admission of launch-day flutters comes coincidentally close to a similar confession from the other half of the holding company.