1 Million PlayStation Owners Only Play Call of Duty

Would you buy an expensive console just for one video game? Probably not. However, according to Sony, about 1 million PlayStation owners only play Call of Duty. That’s it. Nothing else.

The ongoing trial between Microsoft and the FTC follows after Xbox’s lawyers and execs spent more than a year trying to convince various governments to let the company buy Call of Duty and Warcraft publisher Activision Blizzard for $69 billion. The current court hearing isn’t about blocking the deal, but instead pausing it so the FTC has more time to “evaluate the antitrust merits” of the case. And as the hearing has gone on, more and more internal documents, emails, and depositions have been released, giving us juicy details about the companies involved.

For example, in a letter from PlayStation boss Jim Ryan to the FTC, we learn all sorts of interesting data on how many people are playing Call of Duty across PlayStation consoles. And yes, in this letter, Ryan says that in 2021 “about 1 million users spent 100% of their gaming time” playing just Call of Duty.

As reported by The Verge, Ryan also says that about 6 million PlayStation gamers spent more than 70% of their gaming time playing just Call of Duty. And on average, in 2021, Call of Duty players sunk over 100 hours a year playing CoD. Sony supplied these numbers to show that if Call of Duty was to become an Xbox exclusive, it would financially hurt the company and punish PlayStation players who mostly (or only) play CoD. Of course, other internal emails reveal that Sony probably isn’t that worried about losing Call of Duty. 

As someone who plays countless games across every platform I own, the idea of spending 70% or even all of your gaming time on one video game seems hard to comprehend. There are so many amazing games, many free ones too, that these players could check out. Some of these games are even shooters, just like Call of Duty. But nope! Instead, these people bought a PlayStation console, hooked it up, installed Call of Duty-whatever-edition-it-was-that-year, and just played that. Wild.

The Call of Duty data wasn’t meant for the public to see

Oh and here’s something funny: You and I shouldn’t even know any of these stats! 

The documents where these stats originate from were part of a series that weren’t properly redacted by whoever was meant to do that. The likely error, as theorized by some online, is they used a cheap marker that didn’t completely block out the important bits. Whoops! But we all benefit from that marker mishap and now we know more than we shouldn’t.

A similar thing happened earlier this week involving some Microsoft docs that showed other companies the tech giant was looking to acquire next. That was published without any redactions which was, seemingly, a mistake as a later version was redacted. All this secret knowledge slipping into my fingers via poorly redacted documents is quite fun. I feel like a spy in a movie. A boring movie about video game sales data, but still, a spy movie!

Call Of Duty Now Makes Cheaters See Fake Enemies

Developers Infinity Ward and Raven Software have introduced new anti-cheat tech that’ll troll Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0 hackers in a hilarious way: introducing hallucinations that only cheaters can see.

Activision has worked on curbing hackers in the past through its proprietary Call of Duty anti-cheat system Ricochet, implementing software that thwarts cheaters by snatching their guns, making legit players invisible, and banning them outright. This new mitigation tactic for the twin shooters, called hallucinations, is yet another way to detect and yeet cheaters to create a fairer game.

Hallucinations will out Call of Duty cheaters

Team Ricochet took to the official Call of Duty website on June 29 to share a progress report now that season four in both games is underway. In the post, Team Ricochet revealed the new mitigation tactic is meant to clock cheaters, explaining that hallucinations will place decoy characters in the game that look like real players but are merely a clone to essentially out a cheater.

Two Modern Warfare 2 soldiers stand side-by-side in front of the barrel of the player's pistol.

One of these is not like the other.
Image: Activision

“These false characters are undetectable by legitimate players, and they can’t impact a legitimate player’s aim, progression, end of match stats, or overall gameplay experience, but serve to disorient cheaters in a variety of ways,” Team Ricochet said. “Hallucinations can be deployed both as a method of mitigation for verified cheaters or, in secret, as a detection for suspicious players.”

Hallucinations also generate the same kinds of information that cheaters often have access to, revealing unique data to make them appear like legitimate players. These fakes can also be hidden and positioned anywhere relative to a cheater, meaning if the team suspects you of cheating, they can place a hallucination in your vicinity. If you interact with it, well then, you’ll have been caught in 4K. And because there’s no real discernible difference between the real and the fake, it’ll be nigh impossible to tell if (and when) you’re interacting with a hallucination. Team Ricochet said this is another way of ejecting bad actors from Call of Duty games, one of many the team is constantly working on.

A Modern Warfare 2 player stares at a red-outlined player from behind a wall.

Looks sussy.
Image: Activision

“[Hallucinations are] a first but foundational step in one of many efforts to combat what the community refers to as ‘non-rage’ hackers,” Team Ricochet said. “These are cheaters using prohibited tools for additional in-game information, giving them an unfair advantage against other players. Using these tools is against our Security and Enforcement Policy and will result in account bans.”

Kotaku reached out to publisher Activision for comment.

Team Ricochet is also shelving a mitigation tactic called quicksand, which froze or slowed cheaters’ in-game movement speed to make them sitting ducks, because it impacted the experience too much for normal players. Maybe if cheaters just, IDK, stopped cheating, then we could have nice things. Until then, cheaters will be battling against figments of their imaginations.


Pulling Call of Duty From Steam Was A ‘Failure’

In a new filing from Microsoft detailing the company’s post-trial “findings” and “conclusions” after its recent victory in court against the Federal Trade Commission the Xbox maker revealed that Call of Duty leaving Steam was part of an Activision plan to grow Battle.net. But according to the docs this controversial move was a “resounding failure.”

In 2018, Activision announced that the PC version of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 would skip Steam and launch exclusively on Blizzard’s Battle.net service. And for about five years, Activision stuck to this plan, even though it frustrated fans. Then in 2022, Activision reversed course and released Call of Duty Modern Warfare II on Steam. Did it do so because it cared so much about the fans and wanted to do something nice? Nah, it turns out the publisher’s plans to grow Battle.net using Call of Duty flopped, and Activision just gave up after a few years of trying.

The information comes from a July 13 court filing from Microsoft that is part of its ongoing legal battle against the FTC as the government entity tries to stop Microsoft from moving ahead with its plans to buy up Activision Blizzard for $69 billion. In the new doc, Microsoft’s legal team uses two examples to show that a “platform” (which includes consoles, digital stores, and streaming game services) doesn’t need Call of Duty to succeed and that “having access” to the popular FPS series doesn’t guarantee success.

Call of Duty leaving Steam didn’t help anyone

Microsoft characterizes Activision’s 2018 decision to make CoD a Battle.net exclusive on PC as a “resounding failure.” The new filing explains that the reasoning behind the controversial move was to “attract users to, and grow,” Activision Blizzard’s own PC game store and launcher, Battle.net. However, this didn’t work, and Battle.net’s monthly active users remained “relatively flat during the period when it had exclusive access” to Call of Duty. Steam’s monthly active user count only grew larger and larger during that same time period, expanding from 67 million users in 2017 to 132 million in 2021.

The point Microsoft’s legal team is trying to make is that Call of Duty isn’t needed to be successful, and even if a platform has it, it doesn’t mean that platform will see a huge increase in customers. So, according to Microsoft, even if it made Call of Duty an Xbox exclusive, which it continues to say it won’t, it wouldn’t matter because there already exist platforms that have succeeded without CoD. 

A screenshot of the Microsoft court filing.

Screenshot: Kotaku

In that same section of the doc, Xbox’s lawyers point to the Switch as another example of how a platform can succeed despite not having access to Call of Duty. Microsoft’s legal team also suggests that if Activision content became exclusive to Xbox, PlayStation maker Sony could respond in various ways, including lowering prices or buying more third-party studios and publishers.

While all of this might be true, it does ignore the fact that even when CoD was exclusive to Battle.net, it was still available to anyone who owned a PC. That wouldn’t be the case for PlayStation owners if the shooter series became an Xbox exclusive.

If you’re tired of all the legal drama and court docs, I’ve got some sad news: It ain’t over quite yet. On Thursday, the FTC appealed the court’s decision from earlier this week that allowed Microsoft and Activision to proceed with the merger. And meanwhile, the Xbox maker still has to deal with the UK’s CMA, which has yet to approve the deal. This ain’t over yet.


Microsoft And Sony Reach Deal For Future Of Call Of Duty On PS5

Art for a Call of Duty operator sits in front of dueling Xbox and PlayStation signs.

Photo: Barone Firenze / Activision / Kotaku (Shutterstock)

Microsoft and Sony have finally reached a deal for keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation once the Activision Blizzard merger goes through. The surprise agreement comes after months of fighting between the two companies and is a sign the acquisition is all but inevitable.

“We are pleased to announce that Microsoft and PlayStation have signed a binding agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer tweeted on July 16. “We look forward to a future where players globally have more choice to play their favorite games.”

It’s not immediately clear what the terms of that agreement are, and whether they are similar to proposals Microsoft recently signed with Nintendo and other cloud gaming providers. In the past, Sony has paid Activision for special benefits relating to Call of Duty, including timed-exclusive content and special marketing rights. It was also revealed during the recent court battle over the deal that Activision had leveraged its partnership with Sony to negotiate better commission rates for the franchise on Xbox.

Read More: Sony Won’t Share PS6 Info With Call Of Duty Devs If Owned By Microsoft

Sony had been vigorously contesting Microsoft’s planned acquisition of the publisher in regulatory proceedings across Europe, the UK, and the U.S. After the recent legal defeat of the Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to block the deal, however, the PlayStation 5 maker seems to have decided it’s time to settle. Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan had reportedly said in the past that his only interest was in blocking the deal.

Sony’s current agreement with Activision wasn’t set to expire until 2025, and the new agreement seems likely to carry through for at least the rest of the PS5’s life. Microosft has claimed all along that it’s not in its financial interest to make the series exclusive as the games generate billions in revenue on the competing platform.

Microsoft declined to comment. Sony did not immediately respond.

Call of Duty Players Flood Fixed Xbox 360 Servers, Hit Problems

A Call of Duty: Black Ops image shows a soldier sneaking up on two enemy soldiers in a narrow hallway.

Image: Activision

In a surprise move, Activision has revived the multiplayer servers for a number of Xbox 360-era Call of Duty games, and it’s proved to be a popular decision. In fact, this past weekend, Xbox 360 Call of Duty games reportedly had more players than both Halo Infinite and Battlefield 2042 combined.

Read More: Microsoft And Sony Finally Reach Deal For The Future Of Call Of Duty On PlayStation

According to the Call of Duty news account ModernWarzone, this weekend saw more people playing Xbox 360-era CoD games that were released over 10 years ago than there were playing contemporary first-person shooters like Halo Infinite and series rival Battlefield 2042. Xbox fan account IdleSloth84_ corroborated this news with screenshots revealing that there were 123,852 people playing CoD: Black Ops, 11,514 people playing CoD: Black Ops II, and 79,619 people playing CoD: Modern Warfare 3 on Xbox 360 servers. CoD: Black Ops was first released in 2010, and CoD: Modern Warfare 3 was released the following year.

Read More: Microsoft: Pulling Call of Duty From Steam Was A ‘Failure’

While the server fixes come at an auspicious time for enthusiastic players inclined to celebrate in the streets about Microsoft and Sony coming to terms with their joint custody over the mega-popular first-person shooter franchise, reliving the glory days of these decade-old games on current-gen Xbox consoles is coming with some last-gen problems.

Unfortunately, hackers are reportedly still present in the old-school servers, and the gameplay is feeling a bit off on the Xbox Series X/S, as some players are experiencing input delay on their ninth-generation consoles. Currently, it’s unknown whether Activision will continue working to improve the experience of these older games for players who are experiencing issues.


Xbox’s Top 10 Bestselling Games Are Mostly Old Call Of Dutys

Quick, without looking it up (or I guess remembering the headline) what’s currently the bestselling game on Xbox? Elden Ring? Maybe a new Call of Duty? Perhaps that popular Diablo IV? Nope! It’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 for Xbox 360. And the rest of the top 10 is filled with other classic CoD games as players flock back to the popular shooters in the wake of Microsoft ironing out some long-standing server issues.

On the weekend of July 15, with no heads-up or announcement, Microsoft and/or Activision fixed the matchmaking issues that had plagued numerous old Call of Duty shooters on Xbox 360, Xbox One, and even Series X/S. At the same time, a vast majority of the classic online first-person shooters were put on sale, going for only $15 a pop. The end result of all this? A shitload of players returned to these aging Call of Duty titles, making them some of the most popular games on Xbox. And now, as the sale continues and word of the fixed matchmaking spreads, a bunch of classic CoD titles have flooded the bestselling games list on Xbox.com.

On July 20, the official Xbox website showed that five of the top 10 bestselling video games on the Xbox store were Xbox 360-era Call of Duty entries. As previously mentioned, 2012’s Black Ops 2 is currently number one.

Here’s the full list as of July 20 at 11 a.m. EST, with Xbox 360-era games in bold.

  1. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (2012)
  2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
  3. Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
  4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
  5. NBA 2K23
  6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022)
  7. Call of Duty: Black Ops III (2015)
  8. Diablo IV
  9. Call of Duty: World At War (2008)
  10. Red Dead Redemption II

As you can see, half of this list is comprised of Xbox 360 Call of Duty games, with fan favorites like Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2 at the very top. And yes, it’s very funny to see two different Modern Warfare 2s on this list. Time is a flat circle and all that.

Why are people playing old Call of Duty games?

So what’s going on here? Beyond the fact that the games are all on sale and Xbox players are returning after server issues were sorted out, I think it’s also a testament to how good this era of Call of Duty was, and how well these games still hold up. While I know modern Call of Duty has a vast audience, to me, the series was at its best from around 2007 to around 2014. The games were fast, the action was snappy, and the amount of bullshit you had to deal with was pretty low.

I also think a lot of players are yearning for shooters from the era before everything was a live-service fiasco. These classic CoDs didn’t have seasonal battle passes, in-game crossover events, or huge cosmetic stores. They mostly sold maps and some gun skins. It was a simpler time, and I’d argue a better time for the franchise and its players. For my money, few things in online gaming are as fun as driving an explosive RC car around Nuketown or killing some hidden sniper with a tomahawk during a Black Ops match.

In fact, now that so many people are playing these games again, I might grab one or two of these classic titles and see if I can have some fun myself before hackers and cheaters ruin everything again.


Nicki Minaj Is Coming To Call Of Duty, Barbs Stay Winning

After weeks of rumors, Call of Duty has announced that it’s adding a Nicki Minaj operator to Warzone and Modern Warfare II. Nicki will join Snoop Dogg (who first became a playable Call of Duty character last year) and 21 Savage as part of an in-game celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. The operators will be available during Call of Duty: Warzone and Modern Warfare II Season Five, which kicks off August 2. Because of this addition, and nothing else, I will be playing this game again.

Read More: The 20 Best Nerdy Video Game Rap Lyrics

According to a blog post on the official Call of Duty website, you’ll also get free war track packs (songs that play on in-game vehicles’ radios) for logging in four times between August 7 and August 16. The first three days of logins will get you a song from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s respectively, while logging in on the fourth day gets you a weapon blueprint.

Playing as Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, and 21 Savage will not be free, but it’s unclear how much their respective bundles will cost you. The blog post says that “more information is to come” that will be posted “prior to launch,” so if you’re hoping to get some Roman’s Revenge in Warzone, you might wanna start saving up. I know that I will be downloading Warzone and playing again for the first time in months, solely thanks to Miss Chun-Li.

Plus, an Activision rep confirmed to Kotaku that Nicki Minaj did some voiceover work for her Operator (as did 21 Savage and Snoop).

The Call of Duty Season 5 roadmap.

Image: Activision

At launch, Call of Duty Season 5 will also bring back a Call of Duty 4 map, and add three other new maps for Modern Warfare II, as well as three new modes (Havoc, a multiplayer arena-style mode; large-scale Capture the Flag, and Gunfight variants). As always, the season will add more maps and modes as it progresses.

Read More: R&B Singer Ne-Yo Loves Street Fighter So Much He Takes His PS5 With Him On Tour

Warzone will get a special quest for its Vondel map that’s similar to the Traditional Battle Royale Champion’s Quest in Al Mazrah, with a few tweaks detailed in the aforementioned blog post. And two familiar vehicles will join Warzone maps for the first time: the MRAP (a big-ass armored truck) and the dirt bike (self-explanatory).

All of this is well and good, but I’m still focused on the addition of Nicki Minaj. Barbs, rise up.

Original Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 Offline Due To Malware

An operator takes point in Modern Warfare 2 (2009).

Image: Activision

After a recent spike in interest as old servers were brought back online on Xbox, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II was taken offline earlier this week on PC over reports of malicious hacks. According to Techcrunch, players were getting attacked in the 2009 game via “hacked lobbies.”

Update 8/2/2023 12:47 p.m. ET: 2008’s Modern Warfare 2 is once again operational on Steam. Activision tweeted that the underlying issue has been resolved and online multiplayer is working. Now all you have to worry about are your standard run-of-the-mill cheaters.

Original story follows.

Alerts about malicious activity in the game date back to June 26 with a post on the Steam Discussion page warning that players should make sure they have a virus scanner active before playing. “They attack using hacked lobbies,” wrote Steam user Bee, identifying the malware as “Trojan:Win32 Wacatac.B!ml.” Other players corroborated the issue. “Ye, i just deleted that Trojan,” wrote back Steam user Kordiii. “Was wondering wtf is that.”

According to Techcrunch, hackers were using a worm, a piece of malicious code that can self-replicate and automatically spread from one user to another. Anyone in one of the hacked lobbies would get the virus, and then spread it to whoever they played with next. “This means the hackers must have found and are exploiting one or multiple bugs in the game to execute malicious code on the other players’ computers,” it reported.

Activision ended up taking the Steam version of the game offline on July 26. When asked about the issues, a spokesperson for the company directed Techcrunch to the following tweet: “Multiplayer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009) on Steam was brought offline while we investigate reports of an issue.”

Read More: Nicki Minaj Is Coming To Call Of Duty, Barbs Stay Winning

Despite being over a decade old, Modern Warfare 2 still averages 500 concurrent players a day on Steam. And that number increased earlier this month after players discovered matchmaking had been improved across a host of older Xbox 360 games. While players on console encountered lag and cheaters, there don’t appear to be any similar reports of malware infections. In the meantime, there’s over a dozen other Call of Duty multiplayer games people can pick up and play.


Call of Duty Veteran Announces He’s Leaving Activision

Two soldiers are shown with a tear effect showing one half of both of their faces in the center.

Image: Activision

After 18 years, David Vonderhaar, the studio design director at Treyarch, announced he’s leaving Activision after shipping eight Call of Duty games since 2004.

Vonderhaar made the announcement on his personal LinkedIn account, where he confirmed he’s moved on to a new project at a different studio but didn’t go into specifics in his post. He also thanked his former coworkers at Treyarch and the Call of Duty fans that have played the studio’s games over the years.

Today I am sharing that I have left Activision and Treyarch after an incredible 18 years and 8 Call of Duty games.

To my co-workers at Treyarch, I am immensely grateful for the time we invested working to improve our craft, never sitting on successes, and always wondering how to improve what we design and how we produce it.

Thank you to the Call of Duty community for your passion and enthusiasm. That energy has often fueled our determination as a studio and individuals. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to interact with so many of you directly online and in person. This energy will always be a massive part of me.

I am staying in the games industry, working on an undisclosed project I can’t discuss yet, but I am excited about a rare and unique opportunity. I’ll update you as soon as possible.

Vonderhaar’s Call of Duty portfolio is synonymous with the Black Ops series, which has been part of the military shooter’s rotating stable of sub-franchises since the first one launched in 2010. The most recent entry was 2020’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.

Earlier this week, Activision and Sledgehammer Games unveiled that the next Call of Duty game will be called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, not to be confused with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, as the new game is part of the rebooted Modern Warfare sub-series that began in 2019.

Lara Croft Is Coming To Call Of Duty

Today, Call Of Duty ramped up its recent trend of Fortnite-eque pop culture crossovers by announcing that Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft will be coming to the game. She joins the Terminator as one of the few characters to appear in both Epic’s popular battle royale and Activision’s military shooter series.

Call Of Duty unveiled the crossover in a post from its official Twitter account, which showcased a silhouette of Lara standing inside a cave with her classic dual pistols in hand, watching soldiers parachute into a smoking city. It was accompanied by the caption, “Pistols ready. Prepared for drop in. Lara Croft is coming to Call of Duty @tombraider.”

Read More: Nicki Minaj Is Coming To Call Of Duty, Barbs Stay Winning

Lara Croft is just the latest famous face to make her way to Call of Duty: Warzone and Modern Warfare II, following appearances last month from rappers 21 Savage, Nicki Minaj, and Snoop Dogg. While no specific details have as yet been revealed, players will likely have to purchase some kind of CoD bundle in order to play as Lara Croft once she officially debuts in the game.

Kotaku reached out to Activision for comment.

Lara has seen many incarnations across the decades since she first plundered her way onto the scene in 1996. The last mainline Tomb Raider game was 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the conclusion to a reboot trilogy that offered a new origin story for the adventurer. In our review, we said, “For all its adherence to series dogma, a good chunk of Shadow of the Tomb Raider feels improbably fresh. Amid a familiar setting and familiar mechanics, it invites players to explore a familiar sort of story in a different, more thoughtful way.”

Read More: The Next, And ‘Biggest’ Tomb Raider To Be Delivered By Amazon

The fate of the Tomb Raider series was unclear following Square Enix’s sale of both developer Crystal Dynamics and the Tomb Raider license itself last year. However, last December, developer Crystal Dynamics and Amazon Games announced that they are making a new Tomb Raider game. While any details about the game, including its name, have yet to be unearthed, what we do know is that the game will be a “single-player, narrative-driven adventure” that will likely be made using Unreal Engine 5.


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