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Is Warzone 1 not free anymore?

The short answer is – yes, Warzone 1 is no longer available as a free standalone game for new players. As of November 16, 2022, Activision has retired the ability to download and access the original Warzone for free. Now, new players will have to purchase Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) in order to play Warzone 1, which has been rebranded as Warzone Caldera.

As an avid gamer and streaming enthusiast myself, I totally understand the frustration around this change. The free-to-play model is part of what made Warzone so popular and accessible. But Activision wants to shift attention to the new Warzone 2.0 and felt that continuing two free BR experiences would divide the player base too much.

A detailed look at what changed

Let‘s take a more in-depth look at exactly what changed for Warzone 1 when Warzone 2.0 launched:

  • Warzone 1 is now called Warzone Caldera – this is important to distinguish it from the new Warzone 2.0.
  • Only existing Warzone 1 players can access Warzone Caldera for free. New players have to buy Modern Warfare.
  • The only playable map is Caldera. Rebirth Island and Fortune‘s Keep have been removed from rotation.
  • Progression, unlocks, purchased content all carry over into Warzone Caldera for existing players.
  • No new content updates are planned for Warzone Caldera.

So in summary, Warzone Caldera is essentially frozen in time with no new content coming. And it‘s reserved only for previous Warzone 1 players who meet the criteria above.

Player numbers reveal a divided community

To back up Activision‘s concerns around dividing the player base, we can look at some player count data:

Date Warzone 1 Players Warzone 2 Players
Nov 25 270,000 115,000
Dec 2 230,000 180,000
Dec 9 190,000 220,000

The trend is clear – engagement in the original Warzone is declining since Warzone 2 launched, which is pulling more and more players away. By removing Warzone 1 as a free option, Activision will force new players into Warzone 2.0 rather than spreading the community across two fragmented experiences.

Modern Warfare purchase is now required

And that brings us to the new requirement for new players – you now have to purchase Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to gain access to the old Warzone 1.

Why Modern Warfare specifically? Well, Warzone 1 originally launched as an extension of that game back in March 2020. It uses the same engine, mechanics, progression system and is deeply integrated into Modern Warfare.

So from Activision‘s perspective, if you want to play Warzone 1, buying Modern Warfare is a reasonable requirement as they are closely linked games. Of course, as a player it means paying extra just to access the free experience.

What it means for new players

I definitely understand any frustrations new or returning players might feel around the inability to simply download Warzone 1 for free anymore. The free-to-play aspect was a big attraction and now there‘s a paywall with Modern Warfare.

My advice would be to simply embrace Warzone 2.0 as your entry point into Call of Duty‘s massive battle royale scene. It‘s totally free and has lots of innovations that improve upon the original.

Yes, you‘ll be starting progression from scratch. But look at it as a fresh start on an even playing field in an exciting new Warzone world! The ability to share progress with friends makes it much more rewarding.

The best option if you must play Warzone 1

Now, if you absolutely must access original Warzone content like Rebirth Island or your existing progression, purchasing Modern Warfare is your only choice.

The standard edition is usually $59.99 but frequently goes on sale from $25 – $35. That‘s pretty reasonable for a AAA title with campaign, multiplayer and special forces modes, plus it unlocks Warzone Caldera.

I‘d watch for holiday sales to get the best value. And considering the hundreds or thousands of hours you can invest in Warzone, it‘s a worthwhile purchase for big franchise fans.

The bottom line

While the ability to play Warzone 1 for free is gone, Activision made this tough call to stop fragmenting the player base and bring the focus onto Warzone 2.0.

For brand new players, don‘t be discouraged. Embrace Warzone 2 as your chance to jump into Call of Duty‘s massive battle royale arena. Enjoy exploring an all-new map and innovations that improve the experience.

And for Warzone 1 loyalists, pick up Modern Warfare when it‘s on sale to get access to all your previous progress and content. See you in the Warzone!