Call of Duty's insatiable hunger for SSD real estate continues. According to official system requirements released by Activision today, all installs of Modern Warfare 3 will first require that you have another program installed: Call of Duty HQ.
If you've been playing Modern Warfare 2 or Warzone the last few months, you're already using Call of Duty HQ. It's essentially just the rebranded main menu for Warzone and MW2 that's capable of launching other CoD games. Modern Warfare 3 will be the first new CoD to require that HQ is installed, and it leaves a large footprint on your SSD—around 45-57GB, according to Activison's numbers. Its mandatory inclusion, as well as the ability to selectively install different pieces of Call of Duty, has resulted in the most convoluted "Storage Space" section in a system requirements grid I've ever seen.
Here's how it breaks down: if you have Warzone and HQ installed already, Modern Warfare 3 will add an additional 78GB, for a total of 149GB. The smallest possible configuration of MW3, with its campaign, co-op, and Warzone all removed, is 79GB (that's CoD HQ's 45GB plus multiplayer's 34GB).
Those aren't outrageous numbers in our climate of 100GB games, but it raises questions around what exactly CoD HQ is there for. We've known all along that MW2's weapons and loadouts will carry over to MW3, but Activision has maintained that MW3 is a full "premium" game of its own. The Battle.net launcher begs to differ: Modern Warfare 3 falls under the banner of all "Call of Duty" content on the launcher as an optional install. In other words, it's an expansion.
That's troubling news as a PC CoD player, because it suggests the convoluted process for playing the MW3 beta a few weeks ago might carry over to the full game: accessing the beta required first launching the CoD HQ app, where you'd then have to select MW3 among other CoD titles and then wait 10-15 seconds for the correct game to boot. Now I'm even more curious what MW3's relationship is to the CoD HQ. What are in those dozens of gigabytes of required space that aren't in the MW3 install? Is that where it keeps all the guns from MW2? Is Captain Price's mustache too powerful to live in a single container? And why is the projected size of CoD HQ on MW3 launch day (45GB) so different from the current size of the app?
I thought modifying my current CoD install and deleting everything but the HQ itself would shed some light, but it only made its purpose less clear.
Before deleting everything but the "base game," my total CoD install was 131GB. After trimming down to just the base game, Call of Duty is still eating up 91GB. On what, I couldn't tell you. When I launch Call of Duty now, I can't actually play anything: no Warzone, no MW2 multiplayer, and no co-op allowed. The only thing I can do is navigate the battle pass and, of course, shop in the premium store. Why am I even allowed to keep the useless skeleton of CoD installed if I can't do anything with it, and why is it so big?
Activision first started letting players modify their installs back when Warzone's file size was getting way out of hand. Now, I'm pretty sure CoD's install screen is a big lie. I knew something was up when I unchecked the Warzone box and it only freed up 14GB. Likely story, Battle.net… I'm sure that other 91GB I'm required to keep isn't just Warzone data in disguise.
It's a real mess of data management. The new system requirements suggest CoD HQ is getting smaller once MW3 launches (maybe they're actually moving all that Warzone data to the Warzone box), so that's good, but it could also get worse. If, come November 10, Modern Warfare 3 is clearly a standalone app that doesn't technically need CoD HQ to function, yet is required to launch MW3 every time, I don't think that will go over well with PC players.
Call of Duty doesn't need to be a launcher. Battle.net is already a launcher.
PC Gamer Newsletter
Sign up to get the best content of the week, and great gaming deals, as picked by the editors.
Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.