Sony really doesn't want Microsoft to own Call of Duty
Xbox owning Call of Duty could be problematic as Sony admits that the franchise has 'no rival'
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🙊 A Brazilian government filing has revealed precisely what Sony thinks about Microsoft’s impending $69bn acquisition of Activision Blizzard
😲 Sony said Call of Duty is "a AAA-like game that has no rival” and that it’s “so popular that it influences users’ choice of console”
🤔 PlayStation has closely partnered with Call of Duty in the past, offering exclusive DLC, perks, and early access to the game
🤞 Microsoft has promised to keep Call of Duty a multiplatform game even after it buys Activision Blizzard
⌛ However, it’s almost a guarantee that Call of Duty will come to Xbox Game Pass in the future
We finally know what Sony really thinks about Microsoft’s impending acquisition of Activision Blizzard and, more specifically, how it views the prospect of Xbox owning Call of Duty.
To put it simply: Sony is firmly against the move.
A Brazilian government filing has publicly revealed Sony’s stance on the prospect of Microsoft owning Call of Duty, and it’s clear that the Japanese company doesn’t want it to happen.
As spotted by ResetEra and translated by Eurogamer Portugal (thanks, Eurogamer), Sony argues that Call of Duty is “a AAA-like game that has no rival” and is “so popular it influences users’ choice of console.”
Sony says that the Call of Duty franchise has “big budgets, multi-year development cycles, and fanatical followings” and plainly states that “no other developer has managed to create a franchise to rival Activision’s Call of Duty, which stands out as a gaming category in its own right.”
Sony even goes as far as to concede that “even if a competitor had the budget to develop a similar product, it wouldn’t be able to rival it.” Pour one out for EA’s Battlefield franchise, folks.
Finally, Sony touches on the success of the Call of Duty games, noting that “Call of Duty has been the top-selling game for nearly every year over the past decade, and for its genre, it’s overwhelmingly the best-selling game. It’s synonymous with first-person shooters and essentially defines that category.”
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Call of Duty: Vanguard and Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War were the two best-selling physical games in the US in 2021, according to the industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. In 2022, Call of Duty: Vanguard is the US's sixth best-selling game (retail and digital) year-to-date, and it’s likely to be surpassed by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which releases on October 28.
🤔 Will Call of Duty be exclusive to Xbox?
Call of Duty games will not be exclusive to Xbox consoles. Microsoft has committed to releasing Call of Duty games on PS5 and PS4, with Microsoft’s CEO of Gaming Phil Spencer tweeting, “I confirm our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation.” That means Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0 will launch on PS4 and PS5.
One thing that will change, however, is partnerships and timed-exclusivity deals. Sony has made PlayStation the home of Call of Duty, snapping up exclusive DLC, perks, and early access to the game, some of which never came to Xbox consoles. PlayStation owners can enjoy Modern Warfare 2 beta access before Xbox and PC players. Sony did the same for Bungie’s Destiny and Destiny 2, a company it now owns.
In Sony’s own words, these Call of Duty exclusivity deals will have undoubtedly influenced a user’s console choice, but it seemingly wants to stop Microsoft from having the same pull.
Microsoft won’t make Call of Duty an exclusive to Xbox Series X|S, then, but it’s almost a guarantee that the franchise will come to Xbox Game Pass in the future. That move will have a seismic impact on the industry, as knowing you can get access to Call of Duty every year as part of your subscription is a value proposition Sony won’t be able to match, even with its PlayStation Plus Premium service.
The move would be similar to how Microsoft kept Minecraft multiplatform after it bought Mojang for $2.5 billion, as the game is still available on PlayStation, Switch, and PC.
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In contrast to Sony’s arguments, Microsoft believes that Activision Blizzard doesn’t develop any unique video games. The company recently told New Zealand’s Commerce Commission that the publisher produces no “must have” games (thanks, Rock Paper Shotgun) and that Nintendo and Sony will still be able to compete even if it owns the rights to every Activision Blizzard title.
Microsoft announced it would acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in January 2022. The transaction has been subject to the completion of a lengthy regulatory review process, and it appears it might be a while yet until the deal is officially signed off.
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