Sony expresses its apprehension regarding Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard and highlights its concerns for the future of the highly popular Call of Duty franchise. Sony has submitted a new set of documents in PDF format to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), where it elaborates on its worries.
Sony concerned about Call of Duty’s future: Why?
Sony puts forth a hypothetical scenario where Microsoft releases a Call of Duty game on PlayStation with errors and bugs on the final level, which could potentially cause significant harm to the gaming experience of Call of Duty on PlayStation.
Microsoft might release a PlayStation version of Call of Duty where bugs and errors emerge only on the game’s final level or after later updates. Even if such degradations could be swiftly detected, any remedy would likely come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as a go-to venue to play Call of Duty. Indeed, as Modern Warfare II attests, Call of Duty is most often purchased in just the first few weeks of release. If it became known that the game’s performance on PlayStation was worse than on Xbox, Call of Duty gamers could decide to switch to Xbox for fear of playing their favorite game at a second-class or less competitive venue.
Sony outlines its apprehensions that the acquisition could lead to several unfavorable outcomes, including:
- An increase in Call of Duty’s price,
- The game is available only on Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription service,
- The quality and performance of Call of Duty are strategically or incidentally degraded on PlayStation.
Sony’s submission to the CMA regarding Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is somewhat ambiguous about whether the damage to Call of Duty on PlayStation would be intentional or accidental.
However, Sony expresses its fear that Microsoft could potentially harm Call of Duty on PlayStation in several ways, including:
- Degrading the quality and performance of Call of Duty on PlayStation compared to Xbox,
- Ignoring PlayStation-specific features, such as better controller haptics,
- Restricting, degrading, or not investing in the multiplayer experience on PlayStation.
Given the intense competition between Sony and Microsoft for the rights to Call of Duty, it’s not surprising that Sony would have such concerns. Both companies have been vying for console gamers by offering exclusive skins, bonuses, and packs.
However, intentionally sabotaging Call of Duty on PlayStation with bugs is unlikely, as it could generate significant backlash for Activision and Microsoft. The reality could be more subtle, with Microsoft and Activision potentially prioritizing bug fixes on Xbox versions of the game because their developers are more familiar with the platform or because issuing fixes could be quicker on Xbox.
While there are reasonable concerns that Call of Duty may gain slight advantages on Xbox, it’s unlikely that Microsoft would have a corporate strategy to harm Call of Duty on PlayStation and risk losing the revenue it generates for both the platform holder and publisher.
Sony is also apprehensive that Microsoft may restrict Call of Duty to Xbox Game Pass and not allow Sony to offer it on PlayStation Plus. However, in its submission to the CMA, Microsoft argues that any Call of Duty game in a Microsoft multigame subscription is eligible for inclusion in Sony’s multigame subscription service at the same time and for the same duration.
However, Sony appears dissatisfied with the licensing terms or pricing offered by Microsoft, as indicated by the heavily redacted document. Sony argues that the terms would “commercially destroy Sony Interactive Entertainment’s (SIE) multigame subscription business model.”
Microsoft has reportedly proposed a 10-year deal for Call of Duty to Sony, but as of now, Sony has not yet signed the license. Interestingly, just hours before a critical meeting with EU regulators last month, Microsoft disclosed that it had already signed a binding 10-year agreement with Nintendo to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo platforms. Shortly afterward, Microsoft announced a similar deal with Nvidia, seemingly in a bid to pressure Sony into agreeing to comparable terms.
The CMA documents, which Sony filed last month expressing its concerns about Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, were made public today. The British regulator had previously expressed its apprehensions about the potential negative impact on gamers, and it has suggested various remedies, including the possibility of forcing Microsoft to sell off Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty-related business.
Sony concurs with the CMA’s initial findings and calls for structural remedies to address its own worries, such as divesting Call of Duty. According to Sony’s remedies notice, the CMA is scrutinizing over 3 million Microsoft and Activision documents and more than 2,100 public emails. The UK regulator is evaluating responses to its possible remedies, and a final ruling on the acquisition is due by April 26th.
Meanwhile, EU regulators are said to be likely to approve Microsoft’s $68.7 billion deal, with the licensing agreements the company recently signed with Nintendo and Nvidia mitigating concerns. As per reports, the European Commission is unlikely to demand that Microsoft divest any Activision Blizzard assets as a condition of regulatory approval.
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