Hours ahead of the agreed-upon embargo for the news, the Wall Street Journal is the first to report on Call of Duty Elite, the long-reported "digital platform" in development at Activision's new Beachhead studio. Designed to complement this fall's Modern Warfare 3, Elite will be a paid service though "portions of the service will be free" including a Facebook-inspired Groups feature.
Other features of the service include the Bungie.net-like ability to display stats to analyze player performance, "gauging factors such as which weapons have been most successful for them in killing enemies." If you're worried that you'll suddenly have to pay for online multiplayer in Call of Duty titles, don't be. The Journal reports that "players will still be able to compete against each other online without subscribing to the service."
Activision hasn't yet pinned down a price point, though it does expect the cost to be less than comparable "online-entertainment services" like the $8/month Netflix. Part of that fee will go towards a "customer-service operation that will be needed to support it." It will also include the year's map packs, which cost $15 each, taking some of the sting out of any annual charge.
[Update: The trailer detailing the entire service has been leaked on YouTube – hat tip @CheapyD – ahead of tomorrow morning's 9am embargo; if the WSJ article left you with some questions, try the video after the break. Still have questions? We'll do our best to answer everything tomorrow morning! Update 2: Looks like Activision pulled the original YouTube trailer but, now that the embargo's up, we added our own version after the break. Click away!]