Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith held a press conference in Brussels yesterday to talk about the company's proposed Activision Blizzard merger, and Sony quickly became one of the biggest talking points.
Smith was in the city to attend a hearing with the European Commission and attempt to allay any concerns it might have over the Activision Blizzard deal. The EU is currently investigating the merger, and has previously suggested it could harm competition and negatively impact Microsoft's rivals.
Rivals like Sony. Except, Microsoft evidently feels that word doesn't quite capture the relationship between the two. Detailing how it currently compares with the PlayStation maker in Europe, Microsoft said Sony has an 80 percent share of the market, while Xbox only holds around 20 percent.
"Globally, it's about 70/30," added Smith (via a transcript shared by Microsoft), painting Sony as the worldwide market leader by some margin. "In Japan, it's 96 to 4. And while there are some fluctuations over time, these numbers have been remarkably steady for two decades.
"Even last year, when Sony suffered constraints in its supply chain and it saw its numbers dip, they came back strong in the fourth quarter as their supply chain recover[ed]. By our calculation, on a global basis. Sony outsold Microsoft in the fourth quarter by a margin of 69 to 31, pretty much consistent with the global market shares we’ve seen for 20 years."
Since regulators started raising eyebrows at the merger, pointing out that it could allow Microsoft to become the dominant force within the game industry, the Xbox maker has repeatedly painted Sony as a titan of unassailable proportions—and, crucially, one that doesn't need the protection of regulators.
Call of Duty is up for grabs
Smith also confirmed Microsoft has offered Sony the same binding deal it recently agreed with Nintendo, which will see Call of Duty brought to Nintendo platforms for the next decade if the merger is approved.
Microsoft says the deal will guarantee its competitors "100 percent equal access" to Call of Duty over the next 10 years, which in its own words means "ten years of parity on content, pricing, features, quality and playability."
"We haven’t yet reached an agreement with Sony; I hope we will. I walk around with an envelope that contains the definitive agreement that we sent to Sony two days before Christmas," added Smith. "I’m ready to sign it at any time. And if Sony doesn’t like the words, we’re ready to sit down and pull out a pen, or a version of Microsoft Word, and its cut and paste features."
Talking again about Sony's perceived dominance, Smith said that Sony, like the regulators, has a choice. "It can either do a deal with Microsoft or argue that this deal should be blocked," he continued.
"We understand, in some ways, it can be tempting when you have an 80 percent share to just hope that the future never arrives, to hold on as long as possible to a current market share, to hope that that future that, as European game developers have said is cross platform, doesn’t come until a later date."
The EU is expected to share the results of its investigation into Microsoft's Activision Blizzard merger by April 11, 2023. For all the latest on Activision's ongoing battle to acquire Activision Blizzard, keep an eye on our regularly updated rundown.