Are Microsoft’s COD Promises a Sign of Concern?

Doubling down on previous promises, Xbox gaming head Phil Spencer signaled that Microsoft is open to negotiating a long-term contract to ensure Activision’s Call of Duty remains available on PlayStation consoles for years to come. This unusual candidness suggests that Microsoft may be feeling the heat from regulators skeptical of the largest tech deal to date.

The Timeline

  • Jan 2022: Microsoft announces plans to purchase Activision Blizzard for $69 billion
  • Oct 2022: Brazilian regulators approve the deal
  • Oct 2022: UK regulators announce plans to scrutinize the deal
  • Nov 2022: EU regulators announce they will further investigate the purchase
  • US regulators are still in the process of preliminarily reviewing the deal
  • Some of the regulatory attention stems from fears that Activision will give Xbox an unfair advantage in cloud gaming
The Drama
The proceedings around the Microsoft Activision deal has largely taken place not in the media, but in legal filings and behind closed doors. Still, the maneuvering has occasionally spilled into public view, with Sony going as far as to reject Microsoft’s purported commitment to keep COD on PlayStation for the next few years in an unusually public manner. Xbox, to its credit, has been quite active in shaping the media narrative around the deal, with Sony being too quiet in – in the US, at least – given the stakes.

Reading Between the Lines
While it’s possible Microsoft wants to keep COD on PlayStation out of the goodness of its multi-billion dollar corporation heart, this hearts-and-minds strategy suggests that Xbox is starting to worry regulators may block or hamstring the deal. To that point, antitrust regulators have been cracking down after decades of relatively relaxed reviews. It’s also further evidence that the part of Activision that most interests Microsoft may in fact be its mobile games, not a legacy franchise like COD.

Featured image: Activision Blizzard