Last year, Microsoft shook the video game world to its core when it announced that it was acquiring Activision Blizzard, the company behind Call of Duty. Of course, there’s probably nobody on Earth who has the slightest interest in video games (and even those who don’t) who hasn’t heard about Call of Duty. Activision’s top-selling shooter games set during military conflicts (both real and imagined) all over the world.
To say that Call of Duty is popular would be something of an understatement – it routinely tops each year’s best-selling video games list, and it’s obviously Activision’s top-selling franchise too. So Microsoft buying a company which makes one of the best-known and top-selling games in the world is something of a big deal as you can imagine…
That’s why Microsoft’s big rival Sony has been opposed to the deal right from the start, trying to convince the regulators who have to approve the acquisition, in the US and abroad, that Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard would be a bad thing… In essence, it all boils down to Sony being worried about people either switching to Xbox consoles, or choosing an Xbox Series X/S console over a PS5 in order to have access to Call of Duty if Microsoft decides to make the franchise an Xbox exclusive.
The thing is, Microsoft has repeatedly said it won’t turn Call of Duty into an Xbox exclusive, and offered other platform holders long-term contracts (10 year actually) to prove this. Microsoft penned a 10 year contract with Nintendo recently, and another one with technology company Nvidia too, as was recently reported on PC Gamer. This means that Call of Duty games will be on Nintendo’s consoles in the decade to come, and also on Nvidia’s GeForce Now gaming service should Microsoft manage to complete its acquisition of Activision.
Sony was also offered one of those Call of Duty contracts from Microsoft and refused, meaning it is inclined to continue the battle to stop the acquisition, further souring its relationship with the Redmond giant.
Also, Microsoft has hit back at Sony and demanded access to internal documents which may show the Japanese company has been busy trying to keep games off Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service by paying fees to third party publishers, something that may weaken Sony’s position in the fight with Microsoft. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC for short) in the US has ruled Sony need to hand the documents over as was recently covered on Forbes.
Also, regulators in the EU are now in favor of giving their nod to Microsof’s buyout of Activision, with Microsoft’s signing of long-term contracts with Nintendo and Nvidia apparently having been the catalyst for this according to Reuters, so Microsoft might have an ace up its sleeve and be closer to completing the acquisition now.
However, the FTC and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority still appear to be opposed to the deal going forward, with the latter even suggesting that Activision Blizzard be split up, with a new company (not under Microsoft’s control) being in charge of Call of Duty. Microsoft has said no to this idea, of course…
What’s clear, though, is that this saga could continue for a while, and that Microsoft, although closer to achieving its goal of bringing Activision Blizzard under its wing, still has its work cut out for it if it wants to achieve its objective.
It’s likely the Redmond giant will end up succeeding despite Sony’s opposition, which may later find itself in an uncomfortable position. Call of Duty would end up on Xbox Game Pass and Microsoft might give it delayed access to stuff like DLC for Call of Duty should the acquisition move forward.
It would then be Call of Duty games on PS5 for $70 US dollars vs the price of Xbox Game Pass (which grants access to many other games) in that case. Of course, Microsoft might pull a Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde and take Call of Duty off other platforms, turning it into an Xbox (and Game Pass) exclusive too… These are reasons why Sony might want to continue the fight until the bitter end, and I’ll definitely be interesting to see how things turn out, that’s for sure.
Activision headquarters (link) [Creative Commons (link)]
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Activision)