Premium memberships to Activision Publishing‚Äôs new Call of Duty Elite gaming service have quickly topped one million, establishing a new subscription business for the publisher’s multi-billion-dollar franchise.
Yet Activision said that demand for the Elite service ¬†has so exceeded its expectations that the publisher continues to grapple with ‚Äúscaling challenges.‚ÄĚ The service remains ‚Äúintermittent,‚ÄĚ Kotaku reports.
In acknowledgment of Elite‚Äôs launch hiccups, said Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg, ‚Äúwe are giving all Call of Duty Elite premium Founder members an additional 30 days of the service free of charge.‚ÄĚ
Purchasers of the new ‚ÄúCall of Duty: Modern Warfare 3‚ÄĚ video game (released November 8th) pay an additional $49.99 to receive a year‚Äôs worth of digital content and social gaming extras via the Elite online network. Activision said that some three million ‚ÄúModern Warfare 3‚ÄĚ players have registered for a free version of the digital service, which enables users to create online profiles and join multiplayer gaming groups.
The “Elite” service has changed Activision’s marketing dynamic with retailers as well. GameStop, for itself, is touting its role in ‚Äúdelivering‚ÄĚ 600,000 paid Elite subscriptions, thanks to its pre-order partnerships with Activision and console makers Microsoft and Sony. (Best Buy markets Elite subscriptions as well.)
‚ÄúModern Warfare 3‚ÄĚ sold 6.5 million copies on the first day of its release in North America and the UK, according to Activision (via PC Magazine).
Some 51 percent of consumers in the U.S. and Canada who own a high-definition videogame console (that is, a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360) have purchased downloadable content in the past 12 months, according to a new report from video game research firm EEDAR.
The number of DLC purchasers is up by 11 percentage points from 2010. EEDAR expects the North American market for DLC to generate more than $875 million in revenue this year.
Improving privacy protection may prove to be the biggest challenge for game publishers and network operators in further growing the DLC market. Among those who say they are unwilling to purchase DLC, 47 percent cite privacy concerns, followed by other factors such as price (32 percent) and the lack of a return policy (38 percent). EEDAR notes that privacy was a top concern even before the hacking of Sony‚Äôs PlayStation Network this past spring: when comparing survey responses prior to and after the breach, EEDAR says, the results were within four points of the overall 47 percent average. In addition, privacy concerns of Xbox 360 owners and PlayStation 3 owners remained within five percentage points of each other after the PSN breach.
In 2012, with the addition of Nintendo‚Äôs Wii U console and its more robust online service (compared to the current-generation Wii system), the DLC market will generate approximately $1 billion in North American revenue and nearly $2 billion in worldwide revenue, EEDAR says.
The research firm bases its findings upon a survey of 3,500 HD console owners in the U.S. and Canada, conducted between April and May of 2011. More takeaways from EEDAR‚Äôs ‚ÄúDeconstructing Downloadable Content 2011‚ÄĚ report are available here.
At Activision Blizzard, revenues from digital channels increased by more than 30% year-over-year during the company‚Äôs first quarter (ended March 31), with downloadable content, online subscription games, and other products accounting for more than 50% of non-GAAP net revenues.
As All Things Digital reports, downloadable content sales comprised a sizable portion of Activision‚Äôs digital revenues in Q1, most notably a $15 content pack for the publisher‚Äôs ‚ÄúCall of Duty: Black Ops.‚ÄĚ The Xbox Live version of the DLC pack garnered some 1.4 million downloads within 24 hours of launch, according to Activision chief executive Robert Kotick.
Digital channels accounted for $428 million in net revenues during the quarter on a GAAP basis, and $440 million on a non-GAAP basis. The category includes revenues from subscriptions and licensing royalties, value-added services, downloadable content, digitally distributed products, and wireless devices.
An increasing number of console gamers are purchasing supplemental downloadable content (DLC) for titles, while downloads of full-length games are on the rise as well, according to market research firm EEDAR.
An estimated 14.5 million Xbox 360 gamers ‚ÄĒ representing 46% of the system‚Äôs total user base ‚ÄĒ have purchased DLC such as expansion packs and cheat codes through March 2011, EEDAR reports. In comparison, some 7.8 million PlayStation 3 owners (25% of the total user base) have purchased DLC.
Six in 10 console owners prefer game publishers to release downloadable content for a given title within a month of the title‚Äôs release, while 30% prefer DLC to be available within three months.
Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of ‚Äúcore‚ÄĚ game fans (64%) own at least one full-length downloadable game, compared to 45% of ‚Äúcasual‚ÄĚ game fans and 51% of fans of both genres. The Xbox 360 base leads in downloadable game activity as well, with more than half of console owners purchasing at least one downloadable game in 2010.
Nearly three quarters of those who purchase downloadable games for the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 (74%) say they first download a demo of the game ‚Äúmost of the time‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúalways.‚ÄĚ
The data comes from EEDAR president Geoffrey Zatkin‚Äôs presentation at the recent Game Developers Conference.
Electronic Arts is on track to sell $750 million worth of full-game downloads and other digital content this year, accounting for 20% of the company‚Äôs annual revenue, CFO Eric Brown said at a UBS investor conference in New York yesterday.
The publisher‚Äôs digital business, which spans games for social networks, smartphones, and console systems, is largely based on ‚Äúorganic‚ÄĚ franchises such as Madden NFL and FIFA soccer. ‚ÄúWe think we‚Äôre growing most rapidly in DLC for the console; the majority of our growth ‚ÄĒ 85% ‚ÄĒ is organic versus acquired,‚ÄĚ Brown said (via Gamasutra). But the executive also noted that growth opportunities remain for packaged media as well: ‚ÄúWe think digital starts with the disc and the high-definition platforms.‚ÄĚ
Sony Computer Entertainment America plans to market select downloadable content (DLC) for the PlayStation 3 in more than 4,400 GameStop locations, as well as at GameStop.com, in a new campaign with the specialty retailer.
The downloadable content, including full PlayStation Network games and add-ons, as well as PlayStation Plus subscriptions, are currently available in select GameStop stores and will continue to be added to a PlayStation DLC section in retail stores and at GameStop.com throughout the rest of the month (see press release via IGN). Sony now touts more than 60 million registered PlayStation Network users.
Major videogame publishers including EA and THQ have sought to mitigate the impact of previously-owned videogames on new release sales this year by making some titles‚Äô online multiplayer modes accessible only with a one-time download code. Gamers receive the code with factory-sealed copies of the game; presuming previous owners used the codes, purchasers of used copies must purchase a new code directly from the publisher.
That‚Äôs not how Activition‚Äôs forthcoming ‚ÄúCall of Duty: Black Ops‚ÄĚ (in stores November 9) will work, according to Mark Lamia, head of the game‚Äôs developer Treyarch. From the development studio‚Äôs perspective, encouraging consumer retention of games comes down to offering continually compelling content.
‚ÄúI want to take [the strategy] in the other direction and bring consumers really great reasons to keep their games, rather than trade them in,‚ÄĚ Lamia told gamer site MCV at a recent promotional event for ‚ÄúCall of Duty.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to support the hell out of ‚ÄėBlack Ops,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Lamia continued. ‚ÄúThat will be our focus post-release: making sure we keep our fans engaged, and hopefully as a result, they‚Äôll want to keep playing our game and won‚Äôt want to trade it in.‚ÄĚ
Cowen Group analyst Doug Creutz wants to see more console videogame publishers charge used game purchasers access fees for downloadable components, as a way of ‚Äúcordoning off‚ÄĚ premium gameplay from the previously-owned market. The ‚Äúdramatic‚ÄĚ growth of the used game business is a ‚Äúsignificant‚ÄĚ factor, Creutz says, in publishers‚Äô recent sale woes. By Gamasutra
Beginning with the release of ‚ÄúTiger Woods PGA Tour 11‚ÄĚ next month, EA Sports games for PS3 and Xbox 360 will include a single-use ‚Äúonline pass‚ÄĚ for downloadable content and online services such as multiplayer modes. Purchasers of pre-owned copies will receive a seven-day free trial of the online access, but thereafter must pay $10 for the downloadable content.
Used game purveyor GameStop endorses the move. ‚ÄúGameStop is excited to partner with such a forward-thinking publisher as Electronic Arts,‚ÄĚ GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo, says in EA‚Äôs release. ‚ÄúThis relationship allows us to capitalize on our investments to market and sell downloadable content online, as well as through our network of stores worldwide.‚ÄĚ Via Joystiq
Online PlayStation 3 gamers will now have a day‚Äôs jump on the Xbox 360 audience for new downloadable content, as the Sony-owned digital distribution network moves its release date from Thursday to Tuesday. First content to be released under the new schedule next week includes an expansion package for Activision‚Äôs ‚ÄúCall of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‚ÄĚ and a downloadable game for Sony‚Äôs PSP device. By Kotaku
It’s a videogame version of the vanity press: ‚ÄėRock Band‚Äô publisher Harmonix hopes to rejuvenate its franchise by enabling independent acts to sell their songs as downloadable game content. As Wired points out, contributing songs to the ‚ÄúRock Band Network‚ÄĚ requires a certain amount of technical savvy and/or cash. Via Wired
Electronic Arts division BioWare reveals details about ‚ÄúThe Cerberus Network,‚ÄĚ an in-game portal in the upcoming Mass Effect 2 that will offer bonus downloadable content (DLC) and game news. The network is activated exclusively by original purchasers of Mass Effect 2 through a single-use unlock code that comes included in retail and digital versions of the game worldwide. The publisher says that players who do not buy the game new can purchase an activation code for the network within the game. ‚ÄúMass Effect 2‚ÄĚ debuts Jan. 26 for the Xbox 360 and PC. Via Business Wire