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Microsoft says Call of Duty exclusivity experiment on PC was a "resounding failure"

The company was referring to Activision's decision to make digital copies of Call of Duty exclusive to Battle.net on PC from 2018 to 2022.

Chris Kerr

July 14, 2023

2 Min Read
Key artwork for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Microsoft claims Activision's attempts to make Call of Duty exclusive to its Battle.net platform from 2018 to 2022 was a "resounding failure."

In a court filing that saw Microsoft detail its post-trial findings following its victory against the FTC, the Xbox maker highlighted how Activision's decision to pull digital copies of Call of Duty from Steam and make it a Battle.net exclusive in a bid to grow the platform didn't exactly have the desired effect.

"Activision's attempt to take PC digital sales of Call of Duty exclusive to its Battle.net platform was a resounding failure," reads the filing, spotlighted by Charlie Intel (via Kotaku).

"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 in an effort 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. Meanwhile, during that same period and without access to Call of Duty, Steam's monthly active users grew by tens of millions of users, nearly doubling from 67 million MAU in 2017 to 132 million MAU in 2021."

It's a tidbit that would seem to support Microsoft's oft-touted claim that it would be counterintuitive to make key Activision Blizzard franchises, like Call of Duty, exclusive to Xbox should it complete its merger with the publisher.

The company has repeatedly stated that it will continue support Call of Duty on rival platforms, and has refuted the idea that acquiring Activision Blizzard would allow it to foreclose competitors like Sony by leveraging platform exclusivity.

Earlier this week, the company won its court battle with the FTC, which had been attempting to block the acquisition in the United States, allowing it to proceed with the colossal $68.7 billion merger. The FTC, however, intends to appeal against that verdict.

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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