Apparently it’s 2012 all over again, and publishers are once more attempting the move of requiring always-on internet connections to play single-player games. That’s been revealed to be the case for Call of Duty: Black Op 6‘s single-player campaign, not just on PC as it has been for years, but now on consoles too.

After June 9’s Call of Duty Direct following the Xbox Games Showcase, Activision put up a support page for the game, which contains a bizarre little two-question FAQ, one of which asks, “Is an internet connection required to play Call of Duty: Black Ops 6?” Click on it, and you’re informed the following:

To deliver the highest-quality visuals while also reducing the game’s overall storage space on your hard drive, Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 will use texture streaming across all game modes. This means you’ll need a continuous internet connection to play any game mode, including Campaign. If you’re on a console, Campaign can be played without a premium subscription service such as Game Pass Core or PlayStation Plus.

As PC Gamer points out, the phrase “texture streaming” more usually refers to when a game uses your machine’s memory and SSD to stream high-res textures, using mystical technology called mips and mipmaps. It does not, usually, have anything to do with an internet connection.

The claim appears to be that they intend to stream textures across your internet in order to reduce the game’s already enormous install size on your hard drive. CodBlops 6 is reported to take up almost 310 GB on an Xbox, which is already ludicrous—and this, it seems, is without its high-res textures.

Over a decade ago, various publishers—most especially Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft at the time—experimented with demanding always-on internet connections to be able to play a large range of single-player games. It was widely condemned, clearly put in place as some sort of anti-piracy measure, but utterly useless since pirated versions of the games would have the online checks removed. In other words, it was a feature that only achieved making official versions of games less functional than illegitimate downloads. The only people it negatively affected were those with unreliable internet connections.

The same is true today. Call of Duty has been pulling this on PC players for a few years worth of releases now, despite PC HDDs and SSDs likely being far more vast than those on consoles. (The PC I’m writing this on has a total storage space across multiple drives of over 18 terabytes. My Xbox Series S has one terabyte.) This becomes even more starkly strange when you learn that the PC install size for Blops 6 is 149 GB (or as low as 78 GB if you already have COD HQ and Warzone installed from previous games). But this year marks the first time the same online demands are being hoisted on console owners.

We’ve reached out to Activision to ask them how much install space is being saved by this scheme, and indeed for more details on how an internet connection is going to support the same streaming speeds for high-resolution textures that can be achieved between components inside the same machine. We’ve also asked how this might affect those with slow or unreliable connections (as is the case for the vast majority of the developing world, as well as rural areas of developed nations), and whether they will as a consequence not be able to play, or experience terrible texture pop-in.


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