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'Call Of Duty' charging by end of 2010?

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Call of Duty: Black Ops
Activision will start charging gamers for playing the Call Of Duty series online by the end of the year, according to analyst Michael Pachter.

Speaking to Industry Gamers, Pachter said that consumers are increasingly shifting from packaged video games to online multiplayer, which they can enjoy for free.

He called on publishers to create a business model that "captures the value created by the multiplayer experience" or face declining revenues.

"While the shift has been great for consumers, who are enjoying an unprecedented, and largely free, game experience, it has been devastating for publishers and shareholders, who are seeing sales and profits decline," he said.

"We think that it is incumbent upon Activision, with the most popular multiplayer game, to take the first step to address monetisation of multiplayer.

"It is too early to tell whether that will be a monthly subscription, tournament entry fees, micro-transaction fees, or a combination of all three, but we expect to see the company take some action by year-end, when Call of Duty: Black Ops launches."

Last month, Activision chief executive Bobby Kotick said that if he could have one wish, he would make Call Of Duty "an online subscription service tomorrow".

Pachter said that Activison can tap into plenty of experience in creating successful subscription models via its partner Blizzard, which runs the World Of Warcraft series.

"It is likely that Activision will ease the pain of consumers, and will continue to offer some form of free multiplayer, at least for a while, but we believe it is imperative that the company begin to capture some value from the huge number of hours spent - 1.75 billion hours on Xbox Live alone through mid-April and we estimate that this figure is approaching four billion hours combined through today on Xbox Live and PSN," he said.

"We are quick to point out that the average single player game has an expected play time of under 30 hours, suggesting that a staggering 133 million units of equivalent game play have been spent (so far) playing Call Of Duty online, with Activision only seeing revenues from the original 20m units sold, plus an estimated eight million map packs sold."

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