Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Is Leading AAA Games to a Unified Cross-Play Future

(Opinions expressed here are solely of the author’s, and doesn’t represent MP1st and its staff).

Whether you love or hate the Call of Duty franchise, there is without a question of the doubt that the series has had a major impact on gaming since its creation. Some positive, some rather majorly negative. Either way, it’s a series that many look to imitate in as many possible ways that they can. And despite titles like Fortnite, Rocket League and a few other games that support cross-platform play between the three or four major platforms, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare marks the first true major multi-platform AAA title that will support cross-platform play that’ll likely lead the industry into a new future of gaming.

It has long been a dream for me to be able to play a multiplayer game with friends from other platform. It’s not that I don’t have any friends on my current gaming system (PS4,PC), it’s just that some of my other friends have decided to opt for other platforms out there. Some titles I much prefer to get on PC like Final Fantasy 14 Online due to performance issues found on the PlayStation version. Though they did finally drop PS3 support and updated the PS4 version to perform much better. Either way, the fact that I can play with my PS4 friends is pretty damn cool.

We have had a few other titles here and there with cross-play between PS4 and PC, but within the last year we have had a major shift in cross-play, especially coming from Microsoft, whom of which denied cross-play last generation. Microsoft has been on a rather aggressive push with wanting cross-play, first opening its doors to nearly every platform besides Sony (due to Sony’s refusal). Fortnite is a major title, although it’s tough to say if its an actual AAA title considering it started life out as what many would consider a niche or indie-like game. One could say that this was the title to really start the cross-play push due to its popularity. It certainly got plenty of developers to speak more openly about it. Yet a thing to consider is that the majority of titles jumping in on the cross-play feature are, without meaning to offend anyone, small developers.

Dauntless is the latest game to adapt cross-play for example and DigitalTrends has a list of current supported cross-play titles and points out as of right now we only have three titles that support cross-play between all platforms (PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch, Mobile). And again they are titles that while are extremely popular, aren’t exactly falling in that AAA category despite most likely making more money than many of the other AAA games out there.

This is where Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) comes into play. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this latest entry in the Call of Duty franchise is one of the most important titles for the industry. Not only is this Call of Duty running on a revamped new engine, and set to make some major changes for the series, but it’s also set to set open the floodgates to AAA, multi-platform titles that support cross-platform play.

Modern Warfare Is Just the Start, More Will Want to Follow

The honest truth is that Call of Duty doesn’t need cross-play at all; a common argument we see as well when people try to state that PlayStation doesn’t need it. The series has always had a healthy player-base (besides PC at odd times), being a multi-billion dollar franchise and having  millions of players at launch, and hundreds thousands afterwards (or millions) playing daily, it’s clear the franchise could survive without it. I wasn’t really expecting cross-play to even come to a major multiplatform title, not until next-gen at least. Regardless it’s a pretty big pro consumer decision even if at the end of the day it could be more so geared towards a financial gain for Activision.

There’s not a whole lot of multiplayer titles by Activision outside of Call of Duty. We do have Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled launching later this month but that’s been confirmed as to not support cross-play nor are there current plans for it. However if there’s one thing we know, is that in this industry, if there’s one big player doing something, then the rest will follow to attempt to cash in on the success.

Over the years we have had countless attempts to replicate Call of Duty’s success; from cheap knock off shooters, to well crafted and enjoyable ones. With the original Modern Warfare we saw a huge jump to copy the series. We saw a more focused, grittier story that tackled today’s subject rather than an old conflict (World War 1, etc.) or a fictional one. Many other modern shooters cropped up to try to follow in the steps of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and only a few really prevailed.

The next title to launch afterwards was Treyarch’s World at War. Say what you will about the game, I personally feel it’s one of the best CODs out there even over the original MW, but one thing is certain with it, and that it kickstarted the whole zombie fad in gaming.

This isn’t to say that Call of Duty invented zombies in video games, because those games have existed for a long time, but there is without a question that it propelled the genre to new heights when it released packed in World at War. And it’s not like a lot of these zombie-type of games were rip-offs of COD just more so we saw an influx of them beginning to crop and try to ride the hype at the time (DayZ, H1Z1, Killing Floor, just to name a few).

Call of Duty is a staple of multiplayer titles today, it sets the standard that many look to. We don’t have to like it, I certainly haven’t been a fan of their multiplayer for a long time now, but we can acknowledge that it’s one of the most influential games  out there.

That’s not to say everything Call of Duty does is original because that’s far from the truth.  It’s just to say that the industry tends to follow where the money is and Call of Duty is certainly worth a large chunk of it.


Let’s take a look at Activision’s biggest competitor, EA. EA has their own monster first-person shooter series which is Battlefield. Battlefield, much like Call of Duty has had its fair share of ups and down but there is no question that both franchise tend to copy one another to a degree.

Examples of one franchise copying the other? Activision releases COD4 (a modern-day shooter), and one year later, EA releases Battlefield: Bad Company, which is also a modern day shooter. This trend appeared to continue for a good number of years as shown below with EA releasing a shooter from the same era as the previous Call of Duty a year later.

Don’t believe us then have a look for yourself.

2007 Battlefield 2142 (Future Shooter)

2007  Call of Duty 4 (Modern day)

2008 Battlefield Bad Company  (Modern Day)

2008 Call of Duty: World at War (WW2)

2009 Battlefield 1942 (WW2)

2009 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Modern Day)

2010 Battlefield Bad Company 2 (Modern Day)

2010 Call of Duty: Black Ops (Vietnam)

2010 Battlefield: Bad Company 2 DLC (Vietnam) – A Month after Black Ops, which is rather suspicious.

2011 would mark the first year that both title opted for a modern day shooter with Call of Duty releasing under Modern Warfare 3, and Battlefield under Battlefield 3. It was the first year that both Activision and EA truly competed against each other by attempting to offer the same type of setting. EA eventually just stuck with the modern day setting until only recently going back to the old school setting with Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V.

battlefield 5 update 1.16 patch notes

There were also the iteration that we saw both series adopt the current market trend which is, of course, Battle Royale. Point here is both companies are out to try and cash in on whatever is most popular and this is even without going into microtransactions and Season Passes (which both franchises are familiar with).

In fact is it really that much of a surprise to see no Activison drop the Traditional Season Pass business model for the new Call of Duty when the latest entry for Battlefield has ditched it? I’d wager that the next Battlefield game will feature cross-platform so it doesn’t get left behind and EA will most likely take it a step further and add cross-play support across all their upcoming titles.

If EA is to follow, and I’m sure they will, then it’s only a matter of time before big companies like Ubisoft, Capcom, Bethesda and more follow suit as well. Because if someone as big as Activision is went out and did it, then everyone else will feel like they should as well regardless of which party may be against it.

Like it or not, Modern Warfare is the start of the final push for the industry to standardize cross-platform play.

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4 years ago

What do you guys think, can we expect other major third party studios such as Capcom (fighting games and racing), EA (sports and shooters), Ubisoft (pretty much all their games) to start making a major push knowing that Activision is now doing it?

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Reply to  jameslara
4 years ago

You see all the comments here? Thats what people think.

J.j. Barrington
J.j. Barrington
Reply to  jameslara
4 years ago

I don’t think people really care. It’s not likely to affect sales, unless it does so negatively, so I doubt other major publishers will make a big push, either.

People seem to ignore that it’s not actually in these companies’ best interest to support cross play. It invariably results in less copies sold, and less DLC/season passes. Extending the life of the game is also detrimental, as it means it’s harder to get people to buy the next iteration.

But who cares about these sensible reasonings?

Reply to  J.j. Barrington
4 years ago

Would it result in less copies though?
I mean I suppose if someone wanted to play across all the platform, but in a real life situation how common is that?

I suppose a copy lost is a copy lost, but the argument can be made that it would increase sale due to say a user now wanting to buy it for their x console versus buying it on a console they don’t own to play with friends. This we see constantly being brought up by people.

And increasing player base has been a focus with GAAS titles because that’s how they work, the healthier and more active the player base is, the more they make in money. I’m not saying I want this I don’t like gaas titles but it seems to be the heavy focus, especially from EA. Of course you have to make a good game first.

Multiplayer games at the end of the day are some form of gaas, some are just more complete than another. Hundreds of thousands are still playing world war 2 and it’s still getting support and making them money to this day.

Even destiny 1 and 2 are still generating money due to the playerbase.

Crossplay doesn’t increase the player base though, it just pools it together. But the more people being able to connect to one another playing means more life out of said title.

I’m no business man though, but to me it make sense to squeeze everything out that you possibly can before moving in to the next big project. If you have a healthy MAU that’s generating revenue then you’ll want to keep supporting it and even attempt to expand it where possible.

I’d say your points stand still because the feature is pretty new to say whether it does anything positive or negative financially.

This reply ended up being longer than I wanted,

Cross-play may help increase monthly active user count, equals to possibly more money for said title from MT

J.j. Barrington
J.j. Barrington
Reply to  jameslara
4 years ago

One of the arguments FOR cross-play is that people don’t have to buy an extra copy to play with their friends who have different consoles than they do. Cross-play would eliminate that extra copy, and the DLC and such that such a gamer would invariably get.

Multiplayer is NOT gaas. It CAN be, but the two aren’t synonymous.

We’re talking about companies that put out yearly iterations. Call of Duty isn’t released every few years. Neither are the other big multiplayer games people typically bring up. There are a few that fit, like the aforementioned Destiny, but Battlefield and the rest do not. Furthermore, this can hamper smaller devs who want to move on to something else if they’re hamstrung by supporting a game longer than they may have wanted to. Or more than they have the capacity to do.

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