Activision tells creators of popular Call of Duty stat-tracking website SBMM Warzone to shut it down by Monday
UPDATE: Website now offline.
UPDATE 29TH MARCH 2021: As predicted, SBMMWarzone.com has shut down. The website is now blank.
"We've met Activision's demand and have shut down our website," the team behind SBMMWarzone.com tweeted. "Your Warzone stats are no longer available. We still believe we can reach an agreement with Activision to provide you with the stats you love. Hey Activision, let's partner up."
ORIGINAL STORY 27TH MARCH 2021: Activision has ordered the creators of SBMMWarzone.com to shut the website down by Monday.
The Belgium-based co-creators of SBMM Warzone said lawyers representing Activision sent a cease and desist demanding the website be shut down, citing privacy concerns.
SBMM Warzone uses the Call of Duty API to obtain player data and then provide useful statistics to players. Crucially, it organises Warzone lobbies into skill-based ranks, which players use to determine the overall skill of a lobby they've just played in. In lieu of an official Warzone ranking system, players have flocked to SBMM Warzone in a bid to better understand Call of Duty's mysterious skill-based matchmaking system.
One of the creators of the website, Ben, told Eurogamer he understands Activision's concern. "When we get their data through their API, they don't control it anymore," Ben said.
Ben explained that in order for SBMM Warzone to obtain this data, the player must have their profile set to public, and know their BattleNet, PSN or Xbox username. The website then obtains kills, deaths, number of wins and other stats, such as a list of the player's matches and the detail of a match. "We get nothing sensitive," Ben insisted, "and only from public players."
There has been a suggestion that Activision takes issue with the fact SBMM Warzone monetises this player data via its website. SBMM Warzone runs adverts and sells a premium membership of between $4 and $6, which unlocks extra data such as the last 100 games' worth of progress, and Gulag win ratio over time.
Ben insisted this monetisation has nothing to do with Activision's complaint, however. "Some people mention that on Twitter, but I don't know why they're saying that because it's not true, nor where they get that info.
"It's been clear talking to the lawyers that the issue was about privacy. It's funny also that people mention that because we still have to pay for our servers and stuff."
Ben said refunds will be made available if and when the website shuts down.
Ben is now desperate to work with Activision to achieve partner status for SBMM Warzone. Some similar third-party websites, such as tracker.gg, are official partners with Activision and remain unscathed. Ben said he's willing to tweak SBMM Warzone and the way it does business to become a partner.
"What we are asking them, it's just to discuss with us how we could become partners, and what should we have to change in order to comply.
"We are open to rebrand (change our name), change some features and pay a commission for using their API, but for that, we still have to get in touch."
Ben said he's tried to get in contact with Activision, but so far has not received a response. "That's what sadden me the most," he said. "We want to be able to talk to them. We believe there is so much more we can bring to this community."
SBMM Warzone began life in late 2020 and quickly rose to prominence within the battle royale's community, so it's no surprise to see that community back Ben as he desperately tries to save his website.
High-profile Warzone players have expressed their support on social media, and the SBMM Warzone website itself has issued a call to arms.
Sorry to see this happening, your site is a great asset, especially while no ranked system yet exists for Warzone. I intend to let Activision know this.— Vikkstar123 ★ (@Vikkstar123) March 26, 2021
This sucks. You guys were providing a great service. Unfortunately I'd you got letters from the ATVI Legal team, then it's unlikely that anyone will be able to talk to you. The answer from the bottom to the top will be "we can't comment, talk to the lawyers" & that will be it 😟— Drift0r (@Drift0r) March 26, 2021
It's unclear whether Activision will listen - and if it doesn't before Monday, SBMM Warzone will shut down.
"Our main goal is to become partners," Ben said, "and we still believe we can reach an agreement with Activision. We don't want to fight them, we are friendlies.
"If it's not possible, we'll have to shut down, yes... sadly."
SBMM has been a hot topic within the Call of Duty community for some time now, and some stat-tracking websites have been forced to change the way they work after players used them to cheat the system.
In January, Eurogamer reported on the developer of a controversial third-party Warzone app that let you see your lobby's K/D ratio before a match began.
Warzone - as well as Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare and Treyarch's Black Ops Cold War - have all come under fire for the impact of SBMM, which has sparked a "reverse-boosting" craze - that is, deliberately dying in order to negatively impact your K/D and, in turn, end up in lower-skilled lobbies.
Some have suggested Activision has taken aim at SBMM Warzone because of the lobby ranking system it provides and the insight it offers into the game's under-the-hood SBMM.
Ben, however, said he truly believes Activision's complaint is about privacy: "but anyways, whether it's about privacy, SBMM itself (or any content on our website), or monetisation, there is a way to find common ground."