There have been rumors floating around the gaming hemisphere for the last several months that have indicated that Activision was bound and determined to base the Call of Duty series' multiplayer around a pay-to-play model. Word was that a subscription fee would need to be paid in order for players to access the online portion of their CoD games.

That is not true. However, Activision has just announced and roughly detailed the subscription-based Elite service. We'll say this again before we stride into the program itself: Call of Duty will remain free to play online, aside from whatever ISP and network costs you're already paying.

Call of Duty Elite is the brand new subscription service developed by Beachhead from Activision that's been built around Black Ops and the upcoming Modern Warfare 3. This service will be available in both premium and free flavors. Of course, the premium version will feature more content and more access, but pricing for said version and its offerings have not yet been announced.

What has been announced, however, is that the premium version of Call of Duty Elite will get subscribers free access to every map pack that releases over the course of each Call of Duty title. Both free and premium subscribers will also have access to an unannounced variety of in-depth stats, strategy sessions, weapon breakdowns, theater modes, mobile access and, what Activision may consider most important, a unification of gamers across Call of Duty titles.

Infinity Ward rep Chacko Sonny explains:

"The genesis of the idea was in the fragmentation of the consumer base…There was a moment when people at Activision realised that there were these tremendous numbers of people who weren't abandoning prior games when a new Call of Duty came out. Every time we released a new game we were leaving that consumer base behind, and we wanted to find a way to unify them across the whole franchise."

The other major feature for this service? Groups and Clans. We're hoping this is part of the free subscription as well as the premium set. Players will be able to group up with folks based on interests or competition and, from there, interact as part of a network together. That sounds like a good way to escape some of the more … annoying gamers.

As the Call of Duty Elite service has not been fully unveiled yet, it's hard to ding or praise it for its premium offerings. With that said, players can still play the Call of Duty franchise the same way they always have. You'll still be able to get online, to purchase DLC and to check your post-game stats. This Elite service looks like it will simple provide benefits for subscribers, not hindrances for non-subscribers.

The beta version of this program will roll out this summer. We'll have more details as they come.

[via VG247]