Removing Call of Duty from Steam was a “resounding failure,” Microsoft says

by Danny Craig  · 
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 exclusive for a few years failed to grow both the platform and the series' PC playerbase, according to Microsoft.

The details:

  • 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 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 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—largely to attract users to, and grow, Activision's own platform.'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 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.

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