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Why Can‘t I Download Warzone 2 on Steam?

The short answer is that Activision has an exclusivity deal with Battle.net for Call of Duty games, so Warzone 2 is not available on Steam. But let‘s dive deeper into the technical and strategic reasons behind this.

Activision‘s Battle.net Exclusivity for Call of Duty

As a loyal Call of Duty player, you‘re probably used to firing up Steam to access your library of PC games. So it can be confusing when you search for Warzone 2 on Steam and come up empty.

The reason boils down to Activision‘s partnership with Battle.net. Since 2017‘s Call of Duty: WWII, Activision has had an exclusivity agreement with Battle.net for the Call of Duty franchise on PC. This means all new Call of Duty titles, including Modern Warfare (2019), Black Ops Cold War, Vanguard, Modern Warfare II (2022), and now Warzone 2, are only available on PC through Activision‘s own Battle.net platform.

According to Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, this agreement helps "drive momentum for Call of Duty esports" and provides "players with the best possible experience." So don‘t expect to see Call of Duty games on other PC platforms like Steam or Epic Games Store anytime soon.

The Scope of the Battle.net Exclusivity

Just how far does Activision‘s Battle.net exclusivity extend for Call of Duty? Here are some key facts:

  • Applies to all new Call of Duty game releases on PC
  • Also includes all Call of Duty DLC map packs
  • Encompasses Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) and all titles since
  • Warzone, Warzone 2, and any future Call of Duty free-to-play games
  • No plans announced to bring future titles to other PC platforms

Essentially if you want to play the newest Call of Duty content on PC, Battle.net is your only option.

The Business Strategy Behind Battle.net Exclusivity

From a business standpoint, here are some potential motivations behind Activision‘s Battle.net exclusivity for Call of Duty:

  • Drive adoption of the Battle.net platform – Call of Duty draws PC gamers into their ecosystem
  • More control over content distribution, updates, and monetization
  • Avoiding Steam‘s 30% platform fees for in-game transactions
  • Access to player data and engagement for analytics
  • Promote cross-selling of other Activision Blizzard titles

By transitioning the immensely popular Call of Duty series to be a Battle.net exclusive franchise, Activision can leverage one of its biggest assets to boost its own platform.

Anti-Cheat Limitations on Linux/Steam Deck

Beyond Activision‘s distribution strategy, there are also some technical challenges that prevent Warzone 2 from coming to Steam – specifically related to its anti-cheat protection.

Warzone 2 uses the RICOCHET anti-cheat system to try to clamp down on hacking and cheating issues in the game. However, RICOCHET was designed for the Windows operating system. It does not currently support Linux, on which SteamOS is built, or compatibility layers like Proton.

This lack of Linux and Proton support blocks Warzone 2 from being playable on the Steam Deck. Without a native Windows installation, the anti-cheat software restricts Warzone 2 from running.

Expanding Anti-Cheat Support Takes Time

In theory, Activision could invest resources into porting RICOCHET to be compatible with SteamOS/Linux and Proton. However, this takes significant development time and testing to ensure stability and security.

With Warzone 2‘s launch focused on Windows and console, expanding anti-cheat support to Linux is lower priority and unlikely to happen until well after release.

Steam Deck Sales Still Ramping Up

Another factor is that while Steam Deck sales are growing, its user base is still relatively small compared to the total PC gaming market. With an install base over 120 million monthly active users, Battle.net remains the safer bet for launch.

As Steam Deck sales increase over time, the business case for porting to Linux may become more compelling. But it is not a priority out of the gate for Activision.

Optimized for Battle.net on Backend Infrastructure

Digging deeper technically, we can see how Warzone 2 has been built from the ground up to integrate with Battle.net‘s backend infrastructure.

Friends, Parties, and Matchmaking

The friends list, party system, matchmaking, and connectivity have all been developed specifically around Battle.net. Transitioning these systems to work with Steam would require non-trivial engineering effort.

For example, Steamworks matchmaking and Battlefield‘s EA Online buddies system would need to be adapted to maintain the same social experience. This back-end work takes time and resources away from creating new content and features.

Account System and Player Profiles

User accounts and progression systems have also been engineered around Battle.net. Player profiles track complete lifetime Call of Duty stats and unlocks. Recreating this on other platforms would be challenging.

Until substantial porting work is undertaken, players need Battle.net to connect properly to online services and access their full account profile.

Optimizing Stability First

With brand new modes like DMZ and the enormous map of Al Mazrah, Warzone 2‘s launch will stress test servers and infrastructure. Focusing purely on optimization and stability for Battle.net avoids exacerbating risks across multiple platforms simultaneously.

Once Warzone 2 is stable and proven on Battle.net, Activision can evaluate expanding to Steam and handling the necessary porting work. But that will not come until well post-launch.

Will Warzone 2 Ever Launch on Steam?

Despite the exclusivity deal and technical considerations covered, could Warzone 2 still come to Steam down the road? While Activision has not confirmed any plans yet, there are a few scenarios where a future Steam launch could happen:

Scenario 1: Short-Term Exclusivity Deal Expires

If the Battle.net exclusivity agreement was only short-term, eventually expiring 1-2 years post-release, Activision may be open to launching on Steam after that period. This would allow them to boost visibility after the initial sales wave subsides.

However, the companies have not publicized the exclusivity term lengths. And past Call of Duty titles have remained locked to Battle.net long-term.

Scenario 2: Boosting Sales in Later Life Cycle

Alternatively, even if the exclusivity deal runs for many years or indefinitely, Activision could see value in increasing Warzone 2‘s accessibility on Steam later in its life cycle.

This is a common tactic in the industry to reinvigorate engagement and purchases for older game titles. Bringing Warzone 2 to Steam could happen to unlock new sales several seasons down the road.

Scenario 3: Changing Strategic Priorities

Finally, shifts within Activision Blizzard post-acquisition by Microsoft could potentially change strategic thinking around platform exclusivity deals in the future.

Microsoft has ported some former exclusives like the Halo: Master Chief Collection to Steam. Leadership changes could modify Activision‘s priorities over time.

But in the immediate term, Call of Duty and Warzone will remain core pillars of driving Battle.net growth for Activision.

Wrapping Up

To summarize, Warzone 2 is locked to Battle.net at launch due to Activision‘s exclusivity deal for the Call of Duty franchise on PC. Anti-cheat limitations and deep integration with Battle.net‘s backend infrastructure also prevent Warzone 2 from coming to Steam today.

Down the road, it‘s possible Warzone 2 could migrate to Steam depending on exclusivity deal expirations, strategic priorities shifting, or wanting to boost sales later in its life cycle.

But for now, players eager to drop into the action on day one will need to download and play Warzone 2 exclusively through Battle.net when it releases for free on November 16th. I hope this guide helped explain the nuanced business, technical, and strategic factors around why Warzone 2 isn‘t on Steam! Let me know if you have any other questions.