Beachhead Studios has told Eurogamer that if "uber fans" of Modern Warfare 3 don't end up wanting premium accounts for Call of Duty: Elite then the developer will regard that as a failure.
"What we're trying to do is make sure free guys get a huge taste of the game – they bought the game, they already paid – and then if you're an uber fan it will be a slam dunk," Beachhead's Noah Heller told Eurogamer.
"That's our goal. If it's not a slam dunk, we're missing the target."
Call of Duty: Elite allows players to track their stats, organise clans, enter tournaments and study the details of the game online. There will be website, tablet, mobile and console applications for Elite, which is currently in beta.
Heller accepted that the original announcement of the service was unpopular because of references to premium services as part of the platform.
"COD Elite was probably under development with us for over a year and it's a true beta," Heller explained.
"In the games industry, betas are usually marketing things, where you roll it out and it's super-polished and you call it a beta, but we were still learning where we were going. We've been working on features forever and now we have to work on messaging.
"Everything I've shown you today is either free or has a free component. Clans is a great example. Should it be premium? Should it be free? We've actually decided you have to be able to get members of your clan in even if they don't pay for it, so now we've got clans with a mix of free and paid members.
"From the outside it was difficult for us, but it taught us very quickly that we need to react to what the community says if we want to have an online service."
When asked whether Activision and Beachhead would consider stripping away the remaining premium options if fans didn't embrace the service, Heller indicated that he didn't think that would be an issue.
"I think we've already gotten ahead of that curve," he told us.
"Literally all of Career is free, all of Improve is free. In Compete, the difference between premium and free is that there's going to be more competitions for higher-value prizes for premium, which I think our users get – if you want to win a Jeep, you need to be premium. But we're still going to give away backpacks and things like that for free.
"Groups are completely free – it would be no fun if you couldn't get in groups with loads of people. And clans – if you want to unlock everything that a clan has available, yeah that has to be premium."
Check out our Call of Duty: Elite preview to read how the service will work in practice.