- PlayStation boss Jim Ryan told European regulators that he wants to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
- Microsoft offered to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation as a part of a 10-year deal.
- Sony is afraid Microsoft could withhold features or release inferior versions of the game on PlayStation.
As a part of Microsoft’s bid to buy gaming giant Activision Blizzard, the company must first gain approval from regulators around the world. In a closed-door meeting in the EU that took place on February 21st, Microsoft and Sony gave their arguments over the deal.
Sony is opposed to the ideal going through, as Microsoft owning Activision Blizzard would mean Microsoft owns the Call of Duty franchise. Sony is not comfortable with Microsoft owning such a major gaming franchise, especially one that has close marketing ties with Playstion.
Sony’s worry is that Microsoft would eventually make the Call of Duty franchise exclusive. Microsoft has responded by offering concessions, such as a 10-year+ deal that would keep the COD franchise on PlayStation platforms and the expansion of the franchise to Nintendo Switch.
Currently, Call of Duty offers exclusive content on all recent Call of Duty titles for PlayStation users. This exclusive content includes cosmetics and game modes.
In the February 21st meeting, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan told Microsoft that he did not want any such deal for PlayStation, and instead wanted to see the deal fail. Jim Ryan told Microsoft, “I don’t want a new Call of Duty deal. I just want to block your merger“.
This is according to Activision executive Lulu Cheng Meservy, who attended the closed-door February meeting.
The CEO of SIE answered that question in Brussels.
In his words:
"I don’t want a new Call of Duty deal. I just want to block your merger.”
— Lulu Cheng Meservey (@lulumeservey) March 8, 2023
So far, Microsoft has signed a deal with Nintendo to bring the Call of Duty franchise to the Switch, however, regulators doubt that newer Call of Duty games will be able to run on switch hardware. The acquisition has yet to be approved in the EU, UK, and the US. These markets will make their final decisions on the deal in the next few months.
Microsoft has faced scrutiny from the FTC in the US, who seek to sue Microsoft over the deal. Microsoft also received an anti-trust warning from European Union authorities. British regulatory authorities have addressed concerns over the deal. The availability of Call of Duty on other platforms is the most important issue to regulators.
With the COD franchise being one of the most popular media franchises of all time, regulators worry that the console exclusivity of the franchise would harm competitiveness in the industry. It is unlikely that Microsoft will sign any deal with Sony, but if Microsoft wants the deal to close they must express they are willing to keep the Call of Duty franchise multiplatform, especially available on PlayStation.
The EU is set to make its final decision on the deal on April 25th. UK authorities will make a decision a day later on April 26th. With this deadline soon approaching, Microsoft and Sony will be more aggressive in promoting their arguments.
We will see if Sony’s refusal to back down will work in their favor by convincing regulators to stand against the deal and stop it. Alternatively, not working with Microsoft on a deal to keep COD on PlayStation could backfire against them, and allow Microsoft to remove the franchise from PlayStation.
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