Call of Duty Xbox player counts prove Modern Warfare II's dominance

By Luke Albigés,

With Activision celebrating the record-breaking launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, we thought it would be interesting to compare Xbox players counts at launch to previous games in the series...

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II released just under two weeks ago, raking in over a billion dollars in just ten days to become the most successful launch in Call of Duty history. But by how much, you ask? Well, that's what we wanted to know too, so we decided to run the numbers. Based on the same data we use to fuel our weekly Xbox Gameplay Chart, over 25% of active Xbox accounts played Modern Warfare II in its first full week — a series high that puts last year's Vanguard to shame.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II played by 25% of active Xbox accounts in first week, data shows

For those who may not know, each week TrueAchievements runs a chart of the most popular Xbox games, pulling in data from over two million Xbox accounts to see which games are getting the most play. This solid sample size lets us compare player activity not only within the same week, but also across releases from different time periods. Since we started collating this data in late 2018, we've seen four mainline Call of Duty releases, and while the exact number of active accounts we scan fluctuates each week, taking first full-week player counts for each and converting to a percentage of the active total should give us a pretty accurate reflection of the popularity of those four most recent Call of Duty titles.

As mentioned above, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II does indeed come out on top, with more than 25% of scanned players jumping into the new game last week — miles ahead of second-place game Fortnite, which was only played by 14%. Close behind, we see the new title's predecessor, 2019's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. While data for this one comes from the early days of our Xbox Gameplay Chart when sample sizes were a fair bit smaller, we can still use the same method of extrapolation to see that 23% of players hit up Modern Warfare in week one. Despite a great opening week, it was still pipped to the top spot on that week's chart by a Fortnite in its prime, which popped up on over 26% of accounts at the time.

Next up is 2020's Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, again not too far behind, likely in part thanks to launching just days after Xbox Series X|S to give early adopters another big-name title to play on their new hardware. According to our data, 20% of active Xbox players got involved with Cold War in the first week, although this one too failed to find the top spot on that week's chart. It was actually narrowly beaten by one of its own — Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (23%) was still flying high a year after launch thanks to the ongoing popularity of Warzone (which made it into our best free Xbox games round-up). Finally, we come to Call of Duty: Vanguard, and those impressive numbers for other Call of Duty launches really just shine a light on how poorly Vanguard performed by comparison. It picked up just over 10% of active Xbox players week one and failed to even break the top five of our chart that week, and never once managed to outperform the seemingly evergreen Modern Warfare in the weeks that followed.

This pattern only makes Modern Warfare II's record-breaking launch all the more impressive. New Call of Duty games looked to be on a downward trajectory as players seemed to just stick with Modern Warfare/Warzone from 2019 on, and that steep drop-off with Vanguard didn't paint a pretty picture for the future of one of the most popular gaming franchises on the planet. Modern Warfare II certainly looks to have turned things around, though, and while that pretty close player count data between Modern Warfare II and its predecessor would certainly seem to suggest that the increased prices of recent games will have been an important factor in raking in those record revenues, you still can't really take much away from a game that can pull in $1 billion in a week and a half. Call of Duty isn't going anywhere any time soon.

Impressed with this year's Call of Duty? Surprised to see how badly Vanguard fell off? Let us know your thoughts below!
Luke Albigés
Written by Luke Albigés
Luke runs the TA news team, contributing where he can primarily with reviews and other long-form features — crafts he has honed across two decades of print and online gaming media experience, having worked with the likes of gamesTM, Eurogamer, Play, Retro Gamer, Edge, and many more. He loves all things Monster Hunter, enjoys a good D&D session, and has played way too much Destiny.