Activision has outlined its downloadable content (DLC) schedule for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 during 2012. There are 20 pieces of DLC due in total, which will be made available to Elite Premium subscribers over a nine month ‘content season’.

The DLC is key to Activision Blizzard’s ability to charge a monthly fee for its new Call of Duty Elite service. Premium members who pay $4.99 a month can get the “content drops” for free. Getting players engaged in year-round playing, rather than just buying a game once a year, is key to shifting the games to a service-based business model.

In addition to the Liberation and Piazza maps, released on Xbox 360 this week, there will be ten further multiplayer maps added to the game during the year. Activision has also revealed that there will be two new game modes appearing, one in June and one in August, along with a total of six new Special Ops missions.

This content will be released in 20 ‘drops’ for subscribers to the paid Elite Premium service, which costs $50 a year. Non-Elite customers will also be able to purchase the maps, which are being developed by Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, and Raven Software, at a later date. The price for the standalone DLC has not yet been announced, but map packs, typically containing five maps, have previously cost $15, or 1200 MS Points.

The 2012 DLC calendar, at least for Xbox 360 Elite subscribers, is as follows:

  • January: Two new maps (Liberation and Piazza)
  • February: New map
  • March: New map, two new Spec Ops missions
  • April: Two new maps
  • May: New map, new Spec Ops mission
  • June: New map, new Spec Ops mission, new game mode
  • July: Two new maps
  • August: New map, new Spec Ops mission, new game mode
  • September: New map, new Spec Ops mission

While many PS3 and PC players are also signed up to the Elite service, there has been no official word on when they will receive their DLC. Microsoft and Activision signed an agreement in 2010, which gave all Call of Duty DLC timed exclusivity on the Xbox 360 platform, and this agreement is still in place.

When questioned on Twitter about DLC timing, Robert Bowling, Creative Strategist at Infinity Ward said, “I don’t control release dates, however I can assure [you] that every platform will get the same amount of content and months of content.” This lack of clarity hasn’t helped diffuse the anger of many PS3 and PC players, whose Elite membership has left them feeling anything but elite.

Dean gave his hands-on impressions of the new Piazza and Liberation maps yesterday. The official trailer for the two maps is embedded below.