As Microsoft faces deeper scrutiny from regulators over its deal to acquire Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion, there’s one party that seems to be enjoying poking their ribs at every turn, Sony.
Every single time new regulatory action is mentioned, Sony is quick to leap in with a common complaint. Namely, they are concerned about Microsoft getting control of Call of Duty, one of the biggest IPs in gaming, though their arguments are somewhat muddled, given their own history of exclusivity and exclusive content.
Sony just gave a new statement regarding news that the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) would be digging into the acquisition deal further:
“By giving Microsoft control of Activision games like Call of Duty, this deal would have major negative implications for gamers and the future of the gaming industry,” Sony said in a statement to GamesIndustry.biz. “We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest quality gaming experience, and we appreciate the CMA’s focus on protecting gamers.”
At this point, Microsoft seems to be starting to get clearly annoyed with Sony’s protestations, with Phil Spencer saying that Microsoft signed a deal with Sony for additional years to keep Call of Duty on the platform (a deal that Sony’s Jim Ryan says isn’t good enough), and they have sworn up and down that Call of Duty is not going anywhere on PlayStation, even if Microsoft offers an enticing alternative by launching it on Xbox Game Pass.
You can sense their frustration in their new statement, responding to Sony:
“It makes zero business sense for Microsoft to remove Call of Duty from PlayStation given its market leading console position.”
This has always been the theory, that Microsoft will probably treat Call of Duty like its Minecraft acquisition, and let that franchise continue to exist, and make a profit, on all platforms, even a rival like PlayStation. As publisher, that would mean Sony is paying Microsoft directly, after all.
However, you can bring up the argument that if PlayStation is a “market leader,” why isn’t Microsoft releasing Starfield there? That’s a new IP, I suppose, but will Microsoft release future DOOM games, Wolfenstein games, Elder Scrolls games on PlayStation, the market leader? So far, we seem to only be talking about Call of Duty, and maybe other Blizzard games like Overwatch and Diablo. So Microsoft is guilty of being a bit tricky here too.
Sony’s complaints are just…not resonating, however. It’s hard to allow them to be this whiny when they have been dominating the console sales space for a generation and a half now, and to believe that somehow Call of Duty by itself is some make or break title for them, when that series has more third party competition than it ever has, plus Microsoft has said fifty different ways it’s staying on PlayStation indefinitely.
I don’t think either party is fully blameless in all these back and forths, but it is especially hard to take Sony’s arguments about Call of Duty seriously, and I understand why Microsoft is growing exasperated with their pushback, which is so clearly self-serving I don’t know how you can see it any other way. In the end, I doubt it will tank the deal, and we’ll see if Microsoft makes good on their word in the coming years.
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