Call of Duty, the biggest-selling videogame franchise of the past few years, has debuted in an online, free-to-play version exclusive to China under a deal between publisher Activision and Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd.
As a free-to-play game, anyone with the right device can play Call of Duty Online, but typically in such games, must spend small amounts of money on in-app purchases or even “rentals” of game items such as weapons to be able to progress quickly or far in the game. Such free-to-play titles have been one of the biggest trends in videogaming the past couple of years.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare debuted on the major videogame consoles and PC in early November and was the year’s biggest-selling game title according to Activision, though it did not release sales details. The online version is based on two previous big-selling installments in the Call of Duty franchise, Modern Warfare and Black Ops.
The new online version has launched for the first time in the world’s biggest game market in public beta, which means it still may have bugs to be worked out as the game’s system deals with an onslaught of potentially millions of players, but it is available to all comers. The title was developed by Raven Software, which has worked on previous CoD titles.
“We believe Call of Duty Online is going to be a game-changer for Chinese gamers,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “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 controls some of the biggest Internet, mobile and telecom platforms in China, including WeChat, QQ Instant Messenger, QQ Games and TenPay. It claims several hundred million users across all its platforms.