Three days after its debut on Steam, Activision has disabled family sharing in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (opens in new tab). The change was made without notification, but SteamDB (opens in new tab) indicates that the feature was switched off at 12:21 ET on October 31.
Steam’s family sharing feature was fully implemented in 2014 and as the name suggests, enables users of a shared computer—”family members and their guests,” as the family sharing Steam page (opens in new tab) puts it—to have their own saved games and achievements on a single digital copy of a game. It’s a pretty generous system, allowing up to five Steam accounts to access shared games on multiple devices.
It’s not universal, however: The family sharing FAQ states that “due to technical limitations, some Steam games may be unavailable for sharing,” including those that require third-party keys, accounts, or subscriptions.
What’s odd about the Modern Warfare 2 situation is that it launched with family sharing enabled, and it remained that way for three days before Activision pulled the plug. That suggests the issue isn’t technical but an intentional choice on the part of Activision. Quietly taking the feature away days after launch has not gone over well with some players.
“You already put in two hours of gameplay into the game so now you can’t get a refund,” chino869 wrote on Reddit (opens in new tab). “If game share was not allowed from the beginning I would have bought it on console instead and the family would have had fun. Also, they might be getting ready for Warzone. It’s time consuming to level guns up and their attachments. The only option people will have to level up faster is buy the game or buy a bundle.”
“I own the game on Steam and I work, I can’t play as much as my younger cousin can and neither of us want to play on the same account cause we got our own level, classes, friends, etc,” hollowinside19 wrote in the same thread. “This is just pure stupid, this works on PlayStation and Xbox why tf not on Steam?”
Some players are also angered by the perception that Activision was trying to sneak the change through without anyone noticing: “The issue is them disabling it without saying a damn thing three days after release,” Designer_Cockroach68 said.
The lack of transparency is predictably leading to speculation and assumptions ranging from “Activision wants to crack down on cheating” to “Activision wants to bleed gamers dry.” It’s a bit academic at this point—the bottom line is that you cannot share Modern Warfare 2 on Steam—but I’ve reached out to Activision for comment on the situation, and will update if I receive a reply.