It's a bad time to be a Call of Duty modder as Activision has cracked down on its second PC fan project in as many weeks. Following last week's shuttering of SM², the team behind popular CoD modded client X Labs has also closed its doors after receiving a cease and desist demand from Activision.
"We are complying with this order and shutting down all operations permanently. Thank you all for your support over the years," the X Labs Twitter account tweeted today.
Today, we have received a Cease & Desist letter on behalf of Activision Publishing in relation to the X Labs project. We are complying with this order and shutting down all operations permanently. Thank you all for your support over the years.May 22, 2023
Unlike SM², which was an unreleased project that aimed to make a "dream Call of Duty" by combining elements of many games, X Labs had already been around for years running dedicated servers for modded versions of fan-favorite Call of Dutys that Activision has long moved on from: Modern Warfare 2 (2009), Advanced Warfare, and Black Ops 3.
As of today, the X Labs website, Patreon, and Discord channel have all been deleted.
The Modern Warfare 2 modded project, IW4X, was particularly popular among a small community of fans who miss the simpler days of CoD. IW4X was essentially classic Modern Warfare 2 with some fun extras, like a few imported weapons and maps from Call of Duty 4 and Black Ops 2. It was no-holds-barred CoD: guns, perks, titles, camo, and emblems could be unlocked with a simple console command and server owners could set special rules (like no killstreaks). I wish I'd given it a go before Activision came knocking.
It's also worth noting that X Labs was not distributing complete Call of Duty games—it was just a mod pack, meaning a normally-installed version of the game was required for it to work.
To my eye this was the sort of harmless fan project that benefits the larger Call of Duty community for existing, but corporate legal departments dedicated to fiercely defending their most valuable IP don't think that way. Accepting money on Patreon may be where X Labs ran afoul of Activision.
Perhaps X Labs might've flown under the radar longer had it not been caught in the wake of SM², a more ambitious project that planned to run on the Modern Warfare 2019 engine and possibly not require you own the game (yikes), but running an unofficial client for a game that's still officially online is an inherently risky proposition these days.
Fingers crossed for the day that well-meaning PC modders can breathe new life into an old game and not be punished for it.