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A Thanksgiving weekend close-up for Call of Duty Elite's second take

When we last spoke with Call of Duty VP of Production Daniel Suarez two weeks ago, just after the record-breaking launch of Modern Warfare 3, things weren't going so well. Sure, MW3 sold 6.5 million units in a single day, but Activision's high-profile Call of Duty Elite service fell squarely on its face. Now, two weeks later, Elite is operational and Suarez says Activision is confident the service can withstand not only the Thanksgiving holiday but a potential post-Black Friday surge.

"It was a lot of hard work from where we were two weeks ago, which was an embarassing place," Suarez confessed. "And now we're at a place where we're confidant people will be able to enjoy the service." And while Elite is operational or, as Suarez put it, "up on its feet," the team continues to push out new builds almost daily. "We still have some bugs and some kinks to work out," he said. "We've been pushing out fixes everyday to address people on Twitter" and elsewhere.

"It was a lot of hard work from where we were two weeks ago, which was an embarassing place."- Daniel Suarez

As for a timetable of events, the failure went something like this: in the first week both registration and a "specific database" failed. While registration was up and running by week two, with "upwards of 50,000 registrants an hour," the "main area of impact that [Activision] had was a specific database that really holds all the data for most of Elite."

Getting both of those aspects working was "a step by step iterative process where we'd let more people in, stress test different parts of the service, and letting more people in every day," Suarez explained. "As of last Thursday night, Friday morning, we took off the prioritization queue so now anybody that signed up gets into the service automatically; free, paid, web, or console."

Now that the service is operational across those three platforms, Activision is nearly ready to introduce another component of the promised Elite experience: mobile. "The goal with mobile is that we're looking to launch at least one, if not both, sometime next week," Suarez said, referring to both the iOS and Android mobile applications. "We may stagger the release of those but likely one of them will launch next week."

Launching this Friday, however, is Friday Night Fights, the Ridley and Tony Scott-produced series pitting real life rivals against each other in the virtual world of Call of Duty. As for the regular DLC map pack installments promised with an Elite premium membership, Suarez wasn't revealing much but did say, "We're going to make an announcement very, very soon on the DLC map pack offerings for MW3," adding that we can expect to hear more "in the coming weeks."

"The goal with mobile is that we're looking to launch at least one, if not both, sometime next week."

When asked if major development would continue on Elite, adding features both on the Elite side but also on the MW3 side, or if that type of functionality would be reserved for annual releases, Suarez said, "We want to grow Elite to be something special, it's not a one-off thing. There's going to be consistent work coming in from all sides to create the service and make it more of a community and offer more features within both the game and the service itself. We haven't announced any of those but it's definitely part of what we want to do."

But perhaps that's premature. With four million users (and one million paid users!) Activision is finally delivering on its initial promise two weeks after launch. And while that gaffe was embarrassing to be sure, as a service, Elite's long-term success hinges more on Activision's ability to deliver a valuable resource consistently for days, weeks, years. We'll see how they do this weekend.

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