Activision will charge gamers to play first-person shooter behemoth Call of Duty online by the end of the year, analyst Michael Pachter has predicted.
"Unless and until the publishers come up with a business model that appropriately captures the value created by the multiplayer experience," the gaming clairvoyant told Industry Gamers, "we are destined to see a migration of game playing away from packaged goods purchases and toward multiplayer online.
"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.
"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, microtransaction 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."
Pachter's prediction will be music to Activision CEO Bobby Kotick's ears. Tim Scafer's mate said last month that if he could do one thing, he would make Call of Duty "an online subscription service" as soon as tomorrow.
"The company has the greatest experience of the Western publishers with multiplayer subscriptions, given its huge success with World of Warcraft, and we expect Activision to apply a WoW-type model to its Call of Duty franchise," Pachter continued.
"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.
"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 20 million units sold, plus an estimated eight million map packs sold."