Almost a year ago to the day, Chinese gaming social network Tencent and American video game publisher Activision partnered for the release of the Call of Duty Online beta exclusively in mainland China. A free-to-play version of the Call of Duty franchise, developed by Activision Shanghai and Raven Software (which is known for creating multiplayer maps in a number of Call of Duty games), it was designed to appeal to the Chinese gaming market. The beta featured assets from the franchise, a new story, and a traditional micro-transaction system.
Around the holidays, Activision and Tencent released the first live action trailer for Call of Duty Online, which culminates with quick cuts of actual gameplay. The footage features American actor Chris Evans, best known for playing Captain America in the Marvel films.
In the US, Activision would be cannibalizing its own games
What's unusual about Call of Duty Online and its marketing is that neither the game nor the trailer, which is nearly identical in style and tone to the other live action Call of Duty trailers, are meant for the American audience. No plans have been announced for either to be released in the United States.
Why? Perhaps we won't see Call of Duty Online in the United States because Activision wouldn't benefit from cannibalizing its own share of the first-person shooter market. In China, where PCs are the most common gaming hardware, free-to-play MMOs are dominant. In the US, Activision can still expect to sell a copy of the latest Call of Duty, along with a slew of post-release content and micro-transactions to boot. We're unlikely to have a free-to-play Call of Duty in the United States so long as millions of people in the US will pay at least $60 each year up front.
Since the free-to-play day may never come, why not read Kotaku's flattering write-up?