The Chinese-exclusive Call of Duty Online will introduce "tens of millions" to the franchise.
While the rest of the world prepares for the November release of Black Ops II, Chinese gamers are already gearing up for Call of Duty Online. Coming exclusively to China, CoDO will adapt many game modes depicted in previous Call of Duty titles with the addition of a co-op story campaign. Most importantly, the game will be free-to-play, making full use of microtransactions through an in-game store.
The Chinese version of the popular FPS will be familiar to most CoD fans, but the free-to-play model will allow for some interesting changes. Weapons, gear, and perks can be purchased and personalized prior to starting a game, many of which are designed specifically with a Chinese player base in mind. Call of Duty Online won't come with a single-player mode, but its co-op story campaign will take the form of a series of Special Operations missions set in the Modern Warfare universe. No further details about the campaign have been revealed, but a leaked trailer for the game does include a voiceover of fan-favorite character Captain Price.
Call of Duty's arrival in China has actually been expected for some time now. Analyst Mike Hickey predicted that an online only CoD would be released by March of this year, while an Activision 2011 Quarterly Earnings Report revealed that a microtransaction-based title was in the works. What wasn't certain was that the game itself would be free, but perhaps it should have been. Given the fact that software piracy is rampant in certain areas of the country, going free-to-play eliminates the need for pirated versions and keeps control in the hands of publishers.
The Chinese-exclusive is the result of a partnership between Activision and internet giant Tencent, the latter of which pulls in a third of China's massive online games revenue. Founder Ma Hua Teng considers the deal a "strategic co-operation" that will draw tens of millions of players to the franchise. We might not even have long to wait before release; shortly after the announcement, a website went live that currently gives visitors nothing but a countdown. Whether the game will go live once the countdown finishes or game details will be made available remains to be seen.