As intense government scrutiny of Microsoft’s $69bn acquisition of Activision Blizzard continues, with many regulatory bodies placing particular importance on the future of the Call of Duty franchise, Microsoft has told the New York Times it offered Sony a 10-year deal to keep the series on PlayStation earlier this month.
In total, 16 regulatory bodies around the world have launched investigations into Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard to assess its likely impact on competition. So far, only Brazil and Saudi Arabia have approved the deal, with a number of territories, including the European Commission and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, having announced more in-depth reviews of the matter.
In both those cases, Call of Duty’s future has been highlighted as a particular concern, with regulators raising fears the juggernaut franchise may be leveraged by Microsoft to gain an unfair advantage over its competition.
As it attempts to assuage those concerns, Microsoft has been increasing forthright in discussing its willingness to keep Call of Duty on Sony’s platform. Reports in September revealed the company had initially pledged to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for “at least several more years” beyond Activision’s existing deal – an arrangement PlayStation boss Jim Ryan would go on to call “inadequate on many levels”.
In October, Xbox boss Phil Spencer publicly pledged to continue releasing Call of Duty games on Sony’s consoles for “as long as there’s a PlayStation out there to ship to”. But now, talking to the New York Times, Microsoft has revealed the terms of its latest offer to Sony in more specific detail, saying that on 11th November it proposed a ten-year deal to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. Sony did not respond to the publication’s request for comment.
Sony has, of course, remained vigorously opposed to Microsoft’s acquisition since its announcement in January. In September, it said, “By giving Microsoft control of Activision games like Call of Duty, this deal would have major negative implications for gamers and the future of the gaming industry”. Jim Ryan was also reported to have flown to Brussels to meet EU regulators and appeal Microsoft’s deal in person.
Speaking to the New York Times, Microsoft accused Sony of misleading regulators, saying the company had “overstated the importance of Call of Duty to its viability.” In response, Jim Ryan told the publication this was “not true”, adding Microsoft was “a tech giant with a long history of dominating industries” and that “it is highly likely that the choices gamers have today will disappear if this deal goes ahead.”
Assuming Microsoft is able to clear all regulatory hurdles, its acquisition of Activision Blizzard is expected to complete next summer.