Sony sounds terrified of Xbox’s unprecedented Activision Blizzard buyout – and it’s easy to understand why. While the Japanese giant has historically had its own way in the console business, it now finds itself up against a competitor with unrestricted access to its parent company’s trillion dollar deep pockets – and it’s unquestionably shook.
As regulators continue to paw over the acquisition before it’s approved, ResetEra spotted a questionnaire submitted in Brazil in which the PlayStation maker was asked about its thoughts on the near-$70 billion deal. Its responses are fascinating, because it’s in the firm’s best interests for the buyout to get blocked – even if Microsoft has claimed that franchises like Call of Duty will remain multiformat.
Specifically, the manufacturer points out that Call of Duty is “an essential game: a blockbuster, a AAA-type game that has no rival” and a release that can “influence users’ console choice”. Sony says that it’s impossible to create a competitor, and even if it could stump up the cost, the series is so “entrenched” that it “would not be able to rival it”.
“Each annual Call of Duty release takes approximately three to five years to develop,” the company said. “As Activision releases one Call of Duty game per year, this equates to an annual investment of hundreds of millions of dollars. Approximately 1,200 people work on each version and another 1,500 are involved in publishing and distribution. Thus, Call of Duty alone has more developers than most game companies employ across its entire development portfolio, even AAA studios.”
It added: “No other developer can devote the same level of resources and expertise in game development. Even if they could, Call of Duty is overly entrenched, so that no rival – no matter how relevant – can catch up.” It continued that the series defines the first-person shooter category, and provided comparisons to Battlefield to illustrate that there’s no contest between the brands.
“Players would be unlikely to switch to alternative games, as they would lose that familiarity, those skills, and even the friends they made playing the game,” the company continued. “Even in weaker years like 2021, Call of Duty still managed to outperform most other games by a considerable margin. Call of Duty: Vanguard, for example, was widely regarded as weaker than previous years’ titles, but was still one of the best-selling games of 2021. In other words, even in a bad year, players remain loyal to the brand and continue to buy the game.”
Sony also pointed out that Activision Blizzard continues to recruit for Call of Duty and is looking to expand the series’ already significant workforce, further lessening any chance of a rival emerging.
It’s a really interesting set of statements from the Japanese giant, which demonstrates just how damaging the company expects this acquisition to be. The deal is yet to be approved, of course, but it’s largely anticipated that it will go through. Based on these comments, it’s clear that Sony would be delighted if it got blocked.
Obviously the platform holder is laying it on thick in these statements, but there is truth to what it’s saying. Call of Duty is a machine fed by several teams all at once, and it’d probably require the entirety of PlayStation Studios to create a rival – and even then it’d lack the brand recognition to compete. That’s just not viable.
Ultimately, though, the outcome is out of its hands. It’ll be interesting to see how the industry changes over the coming years. PlayStation is no pauper, of course, but it’s increasingly finding itself up against a rival with bottomless pockets – all at a time when it wants to increase prices. For the likes of PlayStation boss Jim Ryan and other Sony management, it’s going to need to be nimble to navigate this existential threat to its entire brand.