Microsoft is facing fresh scrutiny of its Activision Blizzard purchase from regulators, with a common refrain that they would then have the power to keep Call of Duty off of a rival like PlayStation, even though Microsoft says it isn’t doing that.
This saga has taken a curious new turn, as Phil Spencer, in a statement to The Verge, says that he went above and beyond to assure PlayStation they would not take away Call of Duty from their platform:
“In January, we provided a signed agreement to Sony to guarantee Call of Duty on PlayStation, with feature and content parity, for at least several more years beyond the current Sony contract, an offer that goes well beyond typical gaming industry agreements,” Spencer said in the statement.
But while Phil is trying to reassure regulators and Sony that Call of Duty isn’t going anywhere, this is the latest statement that does suggest at least some sort of expiration date in the future, even if it’s a ways off. It’s suspected that Sony’s current deals with Call of Duty last at least two more years, so if it’s “several years beyond the current Sony contract” that could be…how many more? Two, three? The official definition of “several” is “more than two but not many.” I assume the pledge had more concrete language than “several,” but we don’t know the exact wording past what Spencer is telling us.
The common sense theory here is that Microsoft understands that Call of Duty is too big a franchise to keep exclusive to Xbox, and it will instead treat it like its purchase of Minecraft, a series it owns but it has remained available on all platforms. The dollars and cents of it would also suggest you would want to keep selling tens of millions of copies on Call of Duty on PlayStation platforms when you are now the one raking in the revenue from that. Especially since you are not selling a large number of copies on Xbox, because the series is now launching as part of Game Pass.
But Microsoft’s messaging has been all over the place here. They keep saying they want as many people to play their games in as many places as possible, but that only seems to be coming up when it’s something they’re being criticized over, like Call of Duty. When it comes to say, Starfield, Microsoft is keeping that Bethesda-made game to themselves. But while Starfield is a new IP, which could perhaps justify that, what happens when the next DOOM, Wolfenstein or Elder Scrolls games roll around? Will Microsoft offer those to PlayStation, or keep them in their own ecosystem only?
Again, even if the Call of Duty situation seems like it will lead to Microsoft publishing the series on PlayStation indefinitely, these “clarifications” keep indicating that Microsoft could either change their mind at any given moment, or that there is some future expiration date for their “generosity” here. As I said yesterday, I’m not sure what’s to stop Microsoft from pledging to release COD on PlayStation now, getting regulatory approve for the deal, and then taking it away 2-5 years later. It’s essentially just…we have to take them at their word, and assume that logic and profit dictate this is probably what they’ll do, going down the Minecraft path with COD.
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