Every year, Activision releases another Call of Duty and gamers across the world scramble to get their hands on the new shooter. Fans love the single player campaign, but the game's polished, fun, and fast-paced multiplayer mode is the real draw.
Of course, it only works if you have other people to play with. A few gamers who bought Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare through the digital storefront built into Windows 10 have discovered they can only play with other gamers who also bought the game from Microsoft. Xbox One players can only play with other Xbox One players, and PlayStation 4 players can only play with other PlayStation 4 players. This has always been the case. The trouble is that this time not all PC players can play with other PC players. For unknown reasons, Windows 10 Store customers are segregated from customers who bought the game from Steam, which is by far the most popular platform on PC.
That's like buying a game from Target and learning you can't play with people who bought it from Best Buy. Call of Duty fans who made the unfortunate of mistake of giving Microsoft their cash are left sitting in lonely multiplayer lobbies waiting for games that'll never start.
However, it appears that Microsoft is giving out refunds.
Activision released two Call of Duties this year. Infinite Warfare is a new entry in the franchise and Modern Warfare Remastered is a fancy remake of one of the series' most popular games players could get as an extra for buying Infinite Warfare's special edition. One Reddit user's little brother bought a copy of special edition to play Warfare Remastered through the Windows 10 Store. When he tried to play some deathmatch he learned he was one of two people looking for a game.
That's right, he couldn't find a game for one of the most popular multiplayer shooters of all time. To put that in perspective, more than 5,000 gamers are playing Modern Warfare Remastered on Steam right now.
Redditor hayz00s' little brother never did find a match and called up the Windows 10 Store to refund the product. "It was very easy," hayz00s told me in a private Reddit message. "He said they were very courteous and didn't give him any trouble trying to get the refund."
The Redditor's brother bought the game from the Windows 10 Store for two simple reasons: It was cheaper and he wanted to play with another sibling who'd bought the game on Xbox One.
Microsoft has spent the past six months pushing cross platform play between PC and Xbox One. High profile titles such as Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3 already support the feature, but Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare does not.
The price difference is pretty big. Steam users who want to play the remastered Modern Warfare have to drop $79.99 for Call of Duty's Legacy Edition. The Windows 10 Store has the same product for $63.99.
hayz00s said he'd stick to Steam, but his brother would use the Windows 10 Store again, "If it's cheaper than Steam's version and won't have separated online multiplayer."
Call of Duty does have a single player campaign, but most fans buy the games to kill other people in multiplayer. Without that, it's just not Call of Duty and it's not worth the cash. The Redditor claimed he reached out to Microsoft and scored his little brother a refund, a heroic feat in these days of draconian digital return policies.
This probably isn't Microsoft's fault. Microsoft has been pushing cross platform play between the Xbox One and Windows 10 for the past year, even promising people who buy a game on one platform will get it on the other for free.
"We support cross-play between devices and platforms for partners who want to enable it," a Microsoft spokesperson told Windows Central when it asked them about the recent Call of Duty problems. The statement implies Activision made the call to keep PC players who bought the game from different storefronts separate. Which, if true, is ridiculous.
Gamers are used to the separation of console and PC multiplayer communities. But PC players aren't used to companies gating them off based on where they purchased their game. It's a ludicrous policy that doesn't serve anyone's interest and it's another black eye for a digital storefront that PC gamers already avoid like the plague.
Update: This story has been updated with comment from the Reddit user hayz00s.