Microsoft is playing dumb to push through the Activision Blizzard deal
Xbox wants you to think it doesn't know what's up
➡️ The Shortcut Skinny: Xbox Activision buyout
😲 Microsoft has a new tactic to push through its Activision Blizzard deal
🤷 The tech giant appears to have played the dumb card
🤔 In a new report to the FTC, Microsoft denied having even basic knowledge about Call of Duty
😆 It makes for hilarious, if slightly strange, reading
Microsoft’s latest strategy to push through its proposed buyout of Activision Blizzard involves the tech giant playing the dunce, as it tries to evade market regulators’ concerns by convincing them it lacks even basic knowledge about Call of Duty and what makes the mammoth gaming franchise so popular.
After the FTC sued to block the deal, Microsoft has been trying to counter the regulator’s questions about market monopolization, many of which have focused on the immense scale of Call of Duty and the possibility Microsoft will make the franchise exclusive to Xbox platforms. Microsoft, for its part, has repeatedly said the opposite.
In the latest document filed to the FTC, the company took a different tack altogether. Instead of trying to allay the FTC’s concerns, it essentially evaded the regulator’s questions where it could. One particularly blunt paragraph read:
“Microsoft avers that it lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations concerning industry perceptions of Call of Duty and Call of Duty’s original release date; or as to the truth of the allegations concerning Call of Duty’s launch and typical release schedule and the resources and budget Activision allocates to Call of Duty, including the number of studios that work on Call of Duty.”
The Shortcut is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Now, aside from the fact that Activision Blizzard would have likely shared many internal and commercial details with Microsoft when negotiating the tie-up, some of the information Microsoft claims to not know is readily publicly available. You can find out Call of Duty’s past launch schedule with a quick Google search, and the idea that the series’ original release date is somehow unknown to Microsoft is laughable (it’s 2003, by the way).
Then, of course, there’s the small matter of Microsoft being a trillion-dollar company with far greater resources at its disposal than a single search engine. To think the company, or even its Xbox wing, doesn’t already have reams of competitor research and analysis to dig through is more than a little far-fetched.
Microsoft appears to be a little unaccommodating, but it’s not the first time the company’s been insincere about Call of Duty. Earlier this year in a document made in response to New Zealand’s market regulator, the company tried to play down the popularity of the hit FPS series in a bid to ease concerns over the acquisition.
“Specifically, with respect to Activision Blizzard video games, there is nothing unique about the video games developed and published by Activision Blizzard that is a ‘must have’ for rival PC and console video game distributors that could give rise to a foreclosure concern,” the report read.
Remember, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 not only had the biggest launch of any Call of Duty game but, as VGC reported, beat Elden Ring to become the best-selling game in the US in 2022.
Microsoft has elsewhere promised it would allow Sony to put Call of Duty on PS Plus should the buyout go through, and bring the series back to Nintendo after a nearly 10-year hiatus. It’s also committed to putting other Activision Blizzard franchises, including Overwatch and Diablo, on Game Pass, although Sony remains opposed to the deal.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer has said Sony is trying to derail the acquisition because it doesn’t have a forward-looking growth plan of its own.