Sony says Xbox could sabotage Call of Duty on PlayStation consoles
Sony's latest attempt to persuade regulators to block Microsoft's Activision Blizzard deal is the most bizarre one yet
Look, we all know that Sony really doesn’t want Microsoft to own Call of Duty. The Japanese electronics giant has made its feelings abundantly clear that it’s firmly against Microsoft’s $69bn takeover of Activision Blizzard.
However, its latest attempt to persuade regulators to block the deal is arguably the most desperate one yet and sounds like the sorts of conspiracy theories you’d see in a Twitter spat between two fanboys.
As first reported by The Verge, Sony submitted documentation to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) saying it’s worried that Microsoft could sabotage PlayStation versions of Call of Duty in the future if the deal is approved.
➡️ The Shortcut Skinny: Sony pushes back again
✋ Sony has once again opposed Microsoft’s takeover of Activision Blizzard
😯 The company has suggested Microsoft could deliberately make Call of Duty worse on PlayStation platforms
👋 Sony believes players would leave PlayStation if that were the case
Sony has since been accused of blocking the deal
Sony suggested that Microsoft could release partially broken versions of Call of Duty on PS5 and future PlayStation consoles in a bid to attract users to play on Xbox consoles instead. The PS5 manufacturer went on to say that Microsoft could even hide game-breaking bugs that may not be discovered until after the game had been released.
In its example to the CMA, Sony said: “Microsoft might release a PlayStation version of Call of Duty where bugs and errors emerge only on the game’s final level or after later updates. Even if such degradations could be swiftly detected, any remedy would likely come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as a go-to venue to play Call of Duty.”
Sony also said that Call of Duty sells best at launch (like the majority of video games) and if any performance differences were found, gamers would choose Xbox over PlayStation.
“Indeed, as Modern Warfare 2 attests, Call of Duty is most often purchased in just the first few weeks of release. If it became known that the game’s performance on PlayStation was worse than on Xbox, Call of Duty gamers could decide to switch to Xbox, for fear of playing their favorite game at a second-class or less competitive venue.”
The parity problem
Performance and graphical discrepancies are commonplace when it comes to multiplatform game releases. The technical experts at Digital Foundry regularly compare the performance of PS5 and Xbox Series X games, and the results are often surprising.
Despite the Xbox Series X being more technically capable when it comes to PS5 vs Xbox Series X, Sony’s console often comes out on top. This is likely due to the PS5 being the lead development platform for third parties as it has the biggest install base, meaning games will usually get a bit more care and attention from developers than the Xbox version, or will exhibit fewer issues.
But it’s off-piste to suggest developers deliberately go out of their way to hamper one console version over the other. Doing so would be counterintuitive and only impact a developer’s bottom line and reputation. It just doesn’t make sense.
That’s why Sony’s suggestion that Microsoft could go out of its way to release an inferior product on PlayStation doesn’t really hold water. After all, if Microsoft does come to own Call of Duty and Activision Blizzard, it’ll want to ensure it’s making as much money as possible from game sales. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 topped the most downloaded PS5 games of 2022 and that would only be good news for Microsoft.
Microsoft has also shown with games like Minecraft that it isn’t in the habit of offering subpar versions of franchises it owns on other platforms.
Microsoft has already repeatedly said it won’t take Call of Duty away from PlayStation platforms and has even offered a 10-year agreement to Sony as a guarantee. Nintendo has signed the same deal, but Sony apparently isn’t interested in negotiating.
According to Activision’s EVP for Corporate Affairs and CCO Lulu Cheng Meservey, PlayStation CEO and president Jim Ryan admitted on record to EU regulators in February that Sony wasn’t interested in any deal.
With Sony stubbornly refusing to entertain the idea of Microsoft’s takeover, it’ll be up to the regulators to deliver a final verdict and put an end to the war of words that has been raging between the two companies. It’s worth noting that the FTC is suing Microsoft over the deal, and the CMA has suggested Call of Duty shouldn’t be included in the acquisition. However, concessions have since been made such as every Xbox PC game coming to GeForce Now if the deal passes.
It’s fair to say that if Sony’s Call of Duty row with Microsoft wasn’t already ugly enough, it’s getting a little embarrassing to watch now.
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