Continuing the trend of “Windows Store versions being demonstrably worse than their Steam counterparts,” Activision’s put out some disturbing news about Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare—namely, that the Windows Store version isn’t cross-play compatible with either the Steam version or the Xbox version.
Wait, what? I thought the big draw for games in the Windows Store was making Xbox and Windows 10 could play well together? Not here, apparently, because while Microsoft’s platforms support cross-play, it’s not required. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare isn’t an Xbox Play Anywhere title (meaning your PC purchase doesn’t transfer to the Xbox) and the multiplayer communities won’t have any contact. Nor, more disturbingly, can you see your fellow keyboard-and-mouse brethren playing through Steam.
On the game’s FAQ, two similarly worded questions read “Can I play Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered for Windows 10 on Windows Store with my friends that are playing on Xbox One/another PC platform?” The answer, in both cases, is “No, you can only play these titles with other users of Windows 10 on Windows Store.”
I’ll keep it simple: Don’t buy Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare through the Windows Store. Get your PC copy literally anywhere else. This is a ridiculous constraint, and whether it’s the fault of Activision or Microsoft or just a limitation of the Windows Store's sandboxed universal Windows platform format, the consumer is getting screwed.
Windows Central received a statement from Microsoft that says “We support cross-play between devices and platforms for partners who want to enable it.” That makes it sound like this befuddling, deal-breaking multiplayer restriction is Activision’s fault, but there’s enough wiggle room that it doesn’t really rule out it being a limitation of UWP itself.
Regardless, Call of Duty’s PC presence is already minimal compared to consoles, and the number of people buying through the Windows Store instead of Steam is undoubtedly even smaller. With no cross-play, the Windows Store-specific multiplayer community is a niche subset of an already small group, and it’s going to dry up faster than a puddle in the Sahara.