PlayStation Takes Call of Duty Fight Public

PlayStation is taking its (to date) mostly behind-closed-doors objections to Microsoft’s $69 billion purchase of Activision-Blizzard public. Since announced in January, Microsoft’s deal has been winding its way through various regulatory reviews. These surprisingly blunt comments from PlayStation’s CEO, however, may be too little, too late.

It Depends on Your Definition of “Several”
Much of the debate over Activision-Blizzard’s sale centered around whether Microsoft would make Call of Duty (COD) a Microsoft exclusive.

  • Xbox head Phil Spencer told The Verge last week that Microsoft offered Sony “at least several more years” of Call of Duty on PlayStation
    • Xbox also announced that it will bring COD and other Activision titles to Game Pass — and potentially Xbox Cloud Gaming
  • PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan labeled the offer “inadequate on many levels” in a statement to
    • Sony claims Microsoft only offered three years
    • Implied that Microsoft inappropriately aired corporate laundry

Call of Duty

Source: Activision-Blizzard

The Next Battlefield
UK authorities signaled last week that Microsoft’s purchase will be further scrutinized. It raised multiple issues.

  • Microsoft would potentially deny Activision-Blizzard games to rivals or add onerous terms
  • Microsoft’s ownership of Xbox, Azure cloud computing, and Windows, combined with Activision-Blizzard games, could “damage competition in the nascent market for cloud gaming services”
What are PlayStation’s Chances?
If Sony is hoping to torpedo the deal over COD, it’s unlikely to succeed. Trying to shift the public narrative by talking COD exclusivity eight months after the deal was inked is too late. Sony’s focus on console exclusivity is also misplaced. 
  • Exclusives Are Common: Sony’s PS4 dominance was built off of exclusive first-party games.
  • Exclusivity Doesn't Make Cents: The real money in COD is microtransactions, particularly from the free-to-play Warzone spinoff. Exclusivity would mean giving up a huge chunk of that money.
  • Endangered Exclusivity: Whether it’s crossplay or subscription services, console exclusives are becoming less important.
Looking Up
The cloud gaming angle raised by UK regulators is what Sony – and the industry – should be watching. Aside from being a new medium that could be the future of gaming, it raises broader tech issues more likely to appeal to regulators, and more importantly, publishers and developers interested in cloud gaming.
Featured Image Source: Activision-Blizzard