The acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft has been the great soap opera of 2022, but whether the purchase materializes is something that is not entirely in the hands of the companies involved: regulatory commissions must study the impact that this would have on the market and the opinions of other agents. Sony, for its part, is determined that it does not occur given the enormous risk that this can pose for PlayStation.
Sony’s refusal has remained fierce until today, and the truth is that it has worked since even Microsoft claims that it is conditioning the process. Now we not only know more about the reasons that drive him to fight the acquisition, but also a very peculiar solution that the manufacturers of PS5 have put on the table to unlock the agreement: that, specifically, Xbox sell the Call of franchise. Duty.
A solution that, quite frankly, would not only go against Xbox’s priorities and the reason behind putting $68.7 billion on the table, but against recent promises from Xbox itself.
But let’s put ourselves in context: Activision Blizzard has a portfolio of franchises and licenses of enormous importance in the video game industry. From Crash Bandicoot to Diablo and Warcraft, passing through Candy Crush. Of course, the biggest concern of the manufacturers of the successful PS5 goes through Call of Duty.
Sony does not want Xbox to be the priority of Call of Duty players, and explains its reasons
No one is surprised that Sony wants to prevent at all costs an exodus from PlayStation to Xbox. Which is quite logical and reasonable. The reason that he argues before the regulatory commissions, however, and as has been shown in his own statements to the CMA, is really unique.
From the outset, Sony not only questions that it will receive fair and equitable treatment, but also illustratively let it fall -before the commission- that in addition to securing the best Call of Duty developers for the Xbox and PC versions, they could run into with bugs and errors in the PlayStation versions.
“After the acquisition, Microsoft will need to make decisions about the support it will provide to develop any PlayStation version of Call of Duty. Even if Microsoft were operating in good faith, it would be incentivized to support and prioritize development of Xbox versions of the games, for example, by using its best engineers and greatest resources.
There would be no practical way for the Commission (or Sony) to monitor how Microsoft chooses to allocate its resources and the quality/number of engineers it dedicates to the PlayStation version of Call of Duty, to ensure that SIE receives fair and equitable treatment.
Sony suggests to the CMA that Microsoft could release a buggy version of Call of Duty on PlayStation which could make gamers lose confidence “in PlayStation as a go-to venue to play Call of Duty.” Seriously… 🙃 pic.twitter.com/6y0vnQh7rm
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) March 8, 2023
In addition, it would be difficult to quickly detect any deviation from a commitment in terms of technical or graphic quality and ensure compliance. For example, Microsoft could release a version of Call of Duty for PlayStation where bugs and errors appear only in the final level of the game or after subsequent updates.
Even if such downgrades could be detected quickly, any remedy would likely come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as the starting place to play Call of Duty. In this regard, and as with Modern Warfare I, Call of Duty is most often purchased only in the first few weeks of release.”
During this long process, both Phil Spencer and the president of Microsoft himself have promised to give equal treatment, guaranteeing PlayStation with the same conditions as on Xbox, PC and, in addition, Nintendo Switch and GeForce Now, in addition to a ten-year contract. years that you are willing to negotiate in the face of the conditions that are estimated from Sony.
For its part, Sony is not only extremely skeptical, but drops that Microsoft could block some content from Activision games after the acquisition. An advantage that, in all honesty, pays off: in all previous Call of Duty installments, PlayStation players have had early access to betas, content or advantages such as additional chargers.
Some maps from certain installments were released a month later on PC or Xbox and, without going any further, some of the PlayStation content as operators for COD: Modern Warfare II, will only reach the rest of the platforms once a year has passed since the release. game release.
Without going any further, the Oni operator to Warzone 2.0 It will not be available on Xbox and PC until October 27, 2023. One year after its debut on PS5 and PS4.
But the thing goes further: in that same game it is only possible to disable cross-play with PC on Sony consoles.
However, and according to the documentation shown, Sony is currently very aware that there is irreparable damage to the competitiveness of the players.
If it becomes known that the game performance on PlayStation is worse than Xbox, Call of Duty players might decide to switch to Xbox, for fear of playing their favorite game in a second-rate version or under less competitive conditions.
There are a number of ways Microsoft could block access to Activision content post-acquisition, and it’s difficult to offer a solution that reflects each and every case. But even if a solution did exist, it would be difficult to both detect and prevent Microsoft from adopting a particular strategy in time to avoid irreparable damage to rivals’ competitiveness.
Furthermore, Microsoft would have a strong incentive to employ the strategies at its disposal to reduce competition. Distortion risk, in this case, refers to the possibility that a solution could create distortions in the market that reduce effectiveness or increase costs.
Of course, Sony is not only concerned that gamers of call of duty on PlayStation are hurt by the acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
PlayStation’s business model is at risk, but it has a counter offer to allow the acquisition
Although, in the documents offered there was confidential information from Sony and Microsoft conveniently crossed out, among what was shown were some of the threats that Sony will face in the event that Activision Blizzard joins Xbox Game Studios.
major risksin fact that they go through the increase in the prices of the games produced by Sony (SIE) or that the PlayStation Plus subscription service ends up being commercially unsustainable.
Microsoft’s recent proposal to SIE regarding Call of Duty also poses this risk. The pricing terms that Microsoft has proposed for the “buy to play” model would give Microsoft a recourse that could increase the prices that SIE charges gamers to play their favorite game.
And when it comes to Microsoft Game Studios services, Microsoft has proposed a licensing agreement that would make PlayStation Plus commercially unsustainable, forcing SIE to increase the prices of PlayStation Plus games. [Microsoft] or directly to not offer Call of Duty.
Microsoft’s plan is no secret: bring to Game Pass both Call of Duty and all Activision Blizzard games . In fact, they have made it clear from the beginning and constantly ratify it to regulatory commissions, ensuring that this will benefit competition, players and access to video games.
In this sense, both companies (both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard itself) have big plans that include increasing the value of the Game Pass service, strengthening the presence of Xbox and, in the process, bringing Xbox Game Studios franchises to the systems. from Nintendo, NVIDIA and of course PlayStation. Because Phil Spencer is fully aware that not bringing Call of Duty to Sony consoles and making it an Xbox exclusive would be shooting himself in the foot.
From here an appreciation: Sony has no authority to allow or disallow the purchase, but is playing all the cards at its disposal so that it does not happen through observations and statements that evaluate the possible side effects of closing the deal.
At least, in view of Sony’s business model: Nintendo and NVIDIA have closed an alliance with Microsoft that will guarantee the arrival of Microsoft games.
And yet, according to what has been learned, during the observations a series of solutions were suggested, among which stands out for Microsoft to divest itself of the Call of Duty franchise in order to unlock the deal. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft’s response is that the acquisition itself could not be done without call of duty. Especially after the recent ten-year commitment to Nintendo and NVIDIA.
Collecting papers: what are Sony’s five arguments facing the commission
As we mentioned, the decision regarding the purchase of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft is not in the hands of Sony, but it is one of the biggest agents when it comes to preventing it from becoming effective.
Based on remarks made during his speech, Sony insists that Microsoft could implement multiple strategies to fully or partially block access to Activision content for PlayStation gamers, and more specifically, to the Call of Duty saga through different specific measures such as:
- raise the price of call of duty on playstation
- Degrade the quality and performance of call of duty on PlayStation compared to Xbox
- Ignoring PlayStation-specific features (for example, DualSense haptic technology) or not prioritizing resources on those features.
- Restrict, demote or not prioritize investment in the multiplayer experience on PlayStation
- And even do that call of duty only available through Game Pass.
Microsoft’s argument, for its part, rests on a single point: that call of duty becomes available to 150 million more players. Something that has been established and substantiated in writing. For now, today three of the installments that never reached Steam can be played from the Valve platform.
From here it is time to wonder if PlayStation, as a brand, is really so dependent on call of duty taking into account the weight of its own catalog with sagas such as The Last of Us, God of War or Uncharted. In addition to other games like the saga FIFA either Fortniteclear.
For its part, Microsoft also claims that, after the close of the acquisition, the exclusive benefits of Call of Duty that PlayStation systems have benefited from so far They will also be available on Xbox and PC. although we want to understand that the exclusivity agreement between Sony and Activision currently in force must expire first.
In any case, the cards from Sony and Microsoft have been laid on the table and the great soap opera seems to be reaching its final stretch: the resolutions of the commissions are expected to arrive over the next few months, the intention of Activision Blizzard itself is to be part of Xbox Game Studios for next summer.
cover image of Rokuro Saito for the second season of Warzone 2.0