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Sony has concerns about Microsoft acquiring Activision and Call of Duty

Sony, which has had an timed exclusivity deal with Call of Duty for seven years, thinks Microsoft's ownership of the franchise will control the purchasing decisions of players.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

August 1, 2022

3 Min Read
Cover art for Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019 reboot.

Sony says that Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and by extension the Call of Duty franchise, gives the Xbox maker an unfair advantage. In a recent government filing in Brazil translated by ResetEra, Sony was pretty open about its feelings on the incoming merger, and its big concern is that Microsoft having complete control over Call of Duty in particular will drive consumers to Xbox over PlayStation. 

For a merger to be recognized, it must gain approval from nearly 20 regulators from around the world. For Brazil, which began its process in late May, its government asks companies for their thoughts on business mergers in their specific industries, and publishes those opinions online. For the sake of transparency, that information is usually be contrasted with the information provided by the merging companies. 

In February, Microsoft said that it would continue to allow Call of Duty games to be released on PlayStation. Its next entry, Call of Modern Warfare II, is set for an October release on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. Following that release, the franchise will not release an entry in 2023. This will be the first year that Activision Blizzard does not release an annual Call of Duty game.

Before this merger, Call of Duty titles would release its DLC on Xbox first thanks to a deal between Microsoft and Activision that began in 2010 with the original Call of Duty: Black Ops, and concluded in 2015. PlayStation would have timed exclusivity for DLC in the games beginning with 2015's Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and that deal remains ongoing. 

Even with its current Call of Duty deal in place, Sony finds the annual franchise to be "essential" and one that has no real equal. Its argues that while publishers such as Epic Games and Rockstar have released respective juggernauts Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto V, those pale in comparison to the shooter franchise, who Sony says is one of its biggest third-party revenue sources.  

"CoD's network of loyal users is so ingrained that even if a competitor had the budget to develop a similar product, it would not be able to create a rival," wrote Sony. "It's synonymous with first-person shooters and essentially defines that category [...] It's been the top-selling game for nearly every year over the past decade, and for its genre, it's overwhelmingly the best-selling game." 

What's Xbox exclusive? It's a world premiere enigma 

With the acquisitions of Activision Blizzard and Bethesda, Xbox's Phil Spencer admitted in 2021 that it would be selective about which games it would make Xbox exclusive, as the games chosen would be used to drive more users towards Game Pass. 

"I can't sit here and say every Bethesda game is Xbox exclusive," said Spencer at the time. "We have games that exist on other platforms, and we're going to go and support those games on the platforms they're on [...] "But if you're an Xbox customer, the thing I want you to know is this is about delivering great exclusive games for you, that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists. That's our goal."

Currently, the only confirmed exclusive is Bethesda's Starfield, set for release in 2023 along with other games from developers Microsoft has acquired in the last several years. Activision Blizzard's Diablo IV and Overwatch 2, respectively releasing in 2023 and this October, will both be multiplatform. 

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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