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Here's an interesting turn of events, just as Call of Duty's (formerly premium, now free) clan-supporting, stat-tracking service CoD Elite is completely shutting down, Battlefield 4's brand-spankin'-new Platoons service is making its debut. After Elite got started, Activision wasn't able to keep the public interest. With Platoons being such a similar service, does it stand a chance of making it for the long haul? Or are premium clan services--even those in the most popular military shooters on the market--simply doomed to fail?
In case you don't know what the CoD Elite and Platoons services are, let me break it down. Elite started out in 2011 as a convenient package deal, making it easier to keep up with the plethora of Call of Duty updates and DLC add-ons by allowing players to subscribe to the service. Once you shelled out the $50-a-year subscription, you got all the additional content, stat tracking, and clan progression features a hardcore CoD gamer could ever want. But eventually, no doubt after interest had long since waned, the service became free, Activision started selling DLC separately again, and the whole thing fizzled out within the span of about 2 years. Nowadays, the stat tracking and clan features can only be found in the CoD: Ghost's mobile app.
While CoD Elite was imploding like a dying star, EA was hatching plans for a similar service in their flagship FPS franchise. Battlefield 4's Platoons service requires that players buy in as Premium members--meaning you'll have to throw down one time fee of $50 to get access. Once you're officially Premium, you can create your own platoon of soldiers that can include up to 100 players, use clan recruiting and management tools, and level up your clan for special items and clan-specific identifiers like emblems. Sounds a bit familiar, don't it?
So here's what's up. CoD Elite tried to get players to pre-pay for DLC, provided clan support, then tanked, leading to the announcement that Elite will be discontinued on February 28, 2014. On the other hand, BF4's Platoons requires gamers to pre-pay for premium content, provides clan support, and has been announced to be launching on February 27, 2014. It's simply bizarre to see one shooter lay down the premium clan support just to watch another charging ahead with almost the exact same strategy and features. EA and DICE don't seem to be paying attention to their competitor's performance and may end up making the same mistakes. To make matters worse, it seems the BF4 developers aren't listening to any outcries from their diehard community.
Battlefield 4 still doesn't have a party system that would allow players to easily play clan matches on consoles. As of right now, players are unable to join friends in a pre-game lobby, and would only be able to join clan members by jumping into in-progress games. It might just be me, but prohibiting clans from organizing their squads in a pre-game lobby isn't exactly the best way to start a clear-cut, competitive, clan vs. clan match. And the BF4 fanbase has been very vocal about their displeasure with the current systems. If this is the system DICE is going to stick with while simultaneously promoting Platoons, it's easy to see how backlash that would ensue.
It is fantastic that DICE will be providing clan support for a game that greatly encourages teamwork and cooperative play among friends. But as the new service gets ready for launch, Platoons doesn't seem like it will have a smooth takeoff, mere hours after CoD Elite crashed and burned on the exact same runway. It seems like the history of premium clan support is going to repeat itself.