Microsoft and Sony have announced an agreement to keep the highly popular Call of Duty franchise available on PlayStation consoles. This move comes in the wake of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the publisher behind the iconic gaming series, last year. The deal, confirmed by Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft Gaming, on Twitter, is set to last for ten years, bringing a temporary truce to the ongoing rivalry between the two industry giants.
The territorial war for exclusive gaming titles between Microsoft and Sony escalated in 2020 when Microsoft acquired Zenimax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, id Software, and Arkane. This acquisition placed major franchises such as The Elder Scrolls and Doom under Microsoft’s ownership, leading to the exclusivity of upcoming titles like Starfield to Xbox consoles. This move drew significant backlash from PlayStation enthusiasts.
Interestingly, reports indicate that prior to Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, it was Sony who had been negotiating for timed platform exclusivity on the highly anticipated game, Starfield, following their previous successes with Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo. However, Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard, which amounted to a staggering $69 billion, drew concerns from competition regulators who feared the consolidation of gaming IPs exclusively to Xbox consoles, potentially creating a monopoly in the console market.
The lengthy legal proceedings that ensued between Microsoft and regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), seem to have reached a conclusion recently. The FTC’s final attempt to block the acquisition was denied, paving the way for the deal to be completed. The timing of the announcement regarding Call of Duty’s availability on PlayStation consoles, made by Phil Spencer, is seen as a fortunate move for Microsoft, given the ongoing concerns raised by regulators.
“We are pleased to announce that Microsoft and @PlayStation have signed a binding agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard. We look forward to a future where players globally have more choice to play their favorite games,” said Phil Spencer, Microsoft Gaming CEO, on Twitter.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s Vice Chair and President, further echoed this sentiment on Twitter, stating, “From Day One of this acquisition, we’ve been committed to addressing the concerns of regulators, platform and game developers, and consumers. Even after we cross the finish line for this deal’s approval, we will remain focused on ensuring that Call of Duty remains available on more platforms and for more consumers than ever before.”
Regulators’ concerns about platform exclusivity following the merger prompted Microsoft to sign various agreements to bring Xbox games, including Call of Duty, to other platforms. This includes a recent 10-year deal with Nintendo to make Xbox games available on Nintendo consoles, as well as agreements with cloud gaming services like GeForce Now and Boosteroid. While the European Commission approved the merger, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocked the acquisition due to concerns surrounding the cloud gaming market, given Microsoft’s dominance in operating systems and cloud infrastructure.
Sony’s decision to sign the deal with Microsoft to ensure Call of Duty’s availability on PlayStation consoles is seen as a strategic move, potentially driven by hopes that authorities would block the Activision Blizzard acquisition. The recent denial of a preliminary injunction request from the FTC by a federal judge could clear the path for Microsoft’s acquisition, pending a resolution with the CMA.
The agreement between Microsoft and Sony marks a significant milestone in the merger and acquisition saga surrounding Activision Blizzard. As more news emerges from Microsoft, the FTC, and the CMA in the coming days, it remains to be seen how the acquisition will shape the gaming industry and the availability of future titles on different platforms.