Call of Duty Online is a big test as to whether the one of the world’s most successful first-person shooter games can succeed in what has become the world’s largest market for games.
Activision and Tencent have launched the free-to-play first-person shooter’s public beta in China. The Call of Duty publisher says that its military franchise has become the world’s largest interactive entertainment, with more than $10 billion in revenue generated to date.
It has high-end graphics free-to-play, especially compared to older games such as Smile Gate’s CrossFire, which generates nearly $1 billion in revenue a year thanks to its popularity in China. But Chinese gamers are rapidly leveling up their hardware with the rise of the middle class. Activision says the goal is to reach hundreds of millions of Chinese gamers.
Raven Software led the development of Call of Duty Online, which was inspired by both Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops. This game is tailor-made for China. In 2014, China was expected to generate $14.6 billion in revenues from 245 million PC online gamers. That doesn’t count mobile and console games revenue, according to a report from market researcher Niko Partners.
“Millions of gamers in the West have come to appreciate that white-knuckled, epic thrill-ride that only Call of Duty delivers. And now an entire new audience of gamers will experience this for the first time. We believe Call of Duty Online is going to be a game-changer for Chinese gamers,” said CEO of Activision Publishing Eric Hirshberg in a statement. “We’ve worked closely with our partner at Tencent, and we’ve challenged one of our most trusted and talented development teams of Raven Software to create a true Call of Duty experience tailored for the Chinese market. Throughout testing, the community feedback has been tremendous. We couldn’t be more excited and we look forward to winning the hearts and minds of a new community in China.”
Tencent is the world’s largest game company within an even larger social networking company. Its QQ social chat service has more than 782.2 million registered users, and the peak number of users online at any given time is 176.4 million. That makes it an excellent partner in China for Activision.
“Since announcing Call of Duty Online, we have gone through a series of alpha and closed beta tests, with each test generating incredibly positive results,” said Steven Ma, the senior vice president of Tencent, in a statement. “Call of Duty Online is a top-tier game developed by an elite team and we are honored to bring this highly anticipated title to the Chinese players.”
In Call of Duty Online, players may purchase or rent in-game items. It features Hero Ops single-player campaign missions, Survival Mode cooperative experiences, Call of Duty multiplayer, and the newly created Cyborgs (player-versus-environment modes exclusive to the Chinese market in Call of Duty Online).
“Over the last few years, we’ve worked closely with Tencent to tailor Call of Duty Online specifically for the Chinese audience, while maintaining an authentic Call of Duty experience,” said Brian Raffel, the studio head of Raven Software, in a statement. “We’ve had a unique opportunity to take the best moments from the entire Call of Duty franchise — along with all-new unique experiences – and deliver the ultimate entertainment package for a whole new audience.”