Removing Call of Duty from Steam was a “resounding failure,” Microsoft says
Activision Blizzard's decision to pull the Call of Duty (COD) franchise from Steam and make it a Battle.net exclusive for a few years failed to grow both the platform and the series' PC playerbase, according to Microsoft.
- Following Microsoft's court victory over the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) earlier this week, the company's legal team claims that Activision's decision to force PC players to purchase all COD titles from 2018 to 2021 on its Battle.net platform was a "resounding failure" as the platform's userbase did not grow as a result of the decision. "Activision's attempt to take PC digital sales of Call of Duty exclusive to its Battle.net platform was a resounding failure," the document reads. "Before 2018, Activision sold digital versions of PC Call of Duty titles on Valve's successful Steam platform. In 2018, Activision decided to take the game off of Steam and make it exclusively available on Battle.net—largely to attract users to, and grow, Activision's own platform. Battle.net's monthly active users ('MAUs') remained relatively flat during the period when it had exclusive access to digital sales of Call of Duty on PC, from 2018 through 2022."
- Although the free-to-play release of Warzone, Modern Warfare's battle royale component, exploded in popularity during the global pandemic, prompting reports of a "record year" with 100 million monthly active users, it appears that it simply masks declining numbers from Blizzard's titles on the same platform. The number of monthly active players for Blizzard's Battle.net releases such as Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and Diablo reached 35 million at the end of 2018 and is expected to fall to 22 million by the end of 2021. Since only a portion of the aforementioned 100 million users would have been on PC, the platform's growth remained "flat."
- COD was originally available on Steam until the release of Black Ops 4, and the subsequent three releases, Modern Warfare, Black Ops: Cold War, and Vanguard, all followed suit. With the release of Modern Warfare II, it appears that the decision to make all of the games available across both platforms is a win not only for the players and Activision but also for Microsoft, who can now use the lower user numbers to convince the court that exclusivity isn't always the best idea for future COD titles, following Sony's concerns about the franchise being pulled from its consoles.
More Activision Blizzard news:
- Following the announcement of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) attempt to halt Microsoft's acquisition of publisher Activision-Blizzard, the Xbox parent has won the court battle against the US-based regulator. The CMA is now open to discussing possible amendments that the company can make to the deal to allow it to pass in the UK after its block in April.
- Sony has revealed that Call of Duty generated approximately $800 million in 2021 on PlayStation platforms alone, with worldwide revenue exceeding $1.5 billion. According to the company, the possibility of Microsoft making Activision's titles exclusives would have a significant impact on Sony's revenue in years to come.