I was playing the beta for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 on PlayStation 4 over the weekend, and I had a realization. I am probably going to try this series out on PC for the first time since the original Call of Duty, and I’m going to do that specifically because it is not on Steam.
Publisher Activision Blizzard claims it is putting a lot of energy into the PC version of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare blew up on the Xbox 360, the series has turned into a console-first affair for Activision, its developers, and even myself. It has always come to PC, but those seemed like half-assed ports. So it’s nice to hear that Black Ops 4 studio Treyarch and Activision plan to put more energy into the PC this time around. But that’s not why I’m planning to check the game out on Windows. I’ll end up playing it because the publisher is adding it to Blizzard’s Battle.net launcher.
I like what I’ve played of Black Ops 4. It seems like a good time, but if I’m going to play a shooter these days, I’m going to do so on PC. This has made it easy to skip the last couple of games especially because it’s hard to drop that $60 toward them on Steam.
The PC has no shortage of shooters, and most of them are less expensive and have more people playing them. I could play Call of Duty, or I could just boot up Rainbow Six: Siege, which I bought during the last summer sale for $10.
But the Battle.net launcher is very different. Sure, I’ll have Overwatch or Destiny 2 as an option as part of that service, but I know myself. Paying $60 to unlock the Black Ops 4 button that already exists on Battle.net is something I’m much more likely to do than to seek it out on Steam.
And maybe more importantly for Activision, it doesn’t have to exist on Steam to get players. Of course, Battle.net already has its own built-in audience, and Blizzard has added Discord-like groups. But people aren’t going to stop using Discord, and that has turned into the best tool to quickly see what your friends are playing. That means if people are playing Call of Duty outside of Steam, PC players are still going to see it.
It’s silly, I know. The portal you get your games from shouldn’t affect the games you want to buy or play, but it does. And I think that Activision and Treyarch are making the right decision here.