Ah, the ongoing Activision-Blizzard acquisition: a Twitter-style fanboy spat being played out publicly by two ginormous corporations – it’s all fun and games in the video game business, isn’t it? Microsoft’s unprecedented near-$70 billion buyout is unsurprisingly under scrutiny, with UK regulators casting a particularly keen eye over the agreement. Sony, predictably, is playing up the importance of franchises like Call of Duty in an effort to get the deal stopped, while the team in green is acting like it’s barely worth a tenth of the sum it’s willing to stump up for it.
This is all posturing from businessmen and lawyers in an attempt to get the outcome they desire, of course. Sony’s business will ultimately be hit hard by the potential loss of Call of Duty games, while Microsoft evidently wants to vacuum up as much of the industry as it possibly can while CEO Satya Nadella still has his chequebook open. Ultimately, regulators need to decide just how much competition will be affected.
In a statement to Games Industry.biz, in response to comments made by the Competition and Markets Authority, Microsoft effectively believes Sony is being a baby: “The suggestion that the incumbent market leader, with clear and enduring market power, could be foreclosed by the third largest provider as a result of losing access to one title is not credible.” The CMA has argued that its Activision-Blizzard buyout could “impair Sony’s ability to compete”.
Microsoft went one step further, suggesting that if every Call of Duty gamer on PlayStation switched to Xbox, “the PlayStation gamer base would remaining significantly larger than Xbox”. Of course, it failed to back up that hypothesis with any data. It concluded: “While Sony may not welcome increased competition, it has the ability to adapt and compete. Gamers will ultimately benefit from this increased competition and choice.”
To be fair, the Redmond firm has reiterated multiple times that it will continue to release Call of Duty on PlayStation platforms, although Sony has taken issue with the company’s comments. Earlier in the year, bigwig Jim Ryan went public with a statement suggesting Microsoft had only committed to release Call of Duty on PlayStation for “three more years”, a deal he described as “inadequate”.
Ultimately, this story is going to run and run; we can’t see either side backing down, and both will continue to present their position from the weakest perspective possible. From our point of view, we’re not convinced any of the current consolidation that’s occurring is good for the industry, but the genie is out of the bottle now. Assuming this Activision-Blizzard deal does get the go-ahead, it may be “buy or die” for Sony moving forwards.