A big point of contention over Microsoft’s stumbling $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard is whether Call of Duty becoming exclusive would negatively impede PlayStation’s ability to compete in the console space. While regulators have, ultimately, determined cloud streaming is a larger issue – specifically in the UK where the deal has been blocked, but also in Europe where remedies have been enforced – it does remain a topic of conversation.
Specifically, in a speech this week, the European Commission's executive vice president Margrethe Vestager commented on the prospect of Call of Duty becoming an exclusive should the acquisition close. “I’m told Call of Duty is a very popular shooter franchise, but we found that Microsoft would probably not shoot itself in the foot by stopping sales of Call of Duty games to the much larger PlayStation player base,” she explained.
To be fair, Microsoft has offered PlayStation a ten year commitment to continue releasing the franchise on PS5, PS4, and any subsequent systems the Japanese giant may release throughout the course of the contract. Sony, to our knowledge, has not yet signed that deal, however – and it’ll probably hold its ground while UK regulators remain a thorn in the acquisition’s side.
Vestager pointed out that, in Europe at least, the PS5 is outselling the Xbox Series X|S by a ratio of 4:1, so she doesn’t believe Microsoft can ignore the sizeable install base of Sony’s system. Of course, we would have argued the same for a title like Starfield as well, although we totally appreciate the latest from Bethesda Game Studios simply can’t compete with a juggernaut like Call of Duty. As for what this means for some of Activision Blizzard’s smaller franchises, like Crash Bandicoot, remains unclear.
We’ve had a bit of respite from this whole ordeal of late, although the acquisition was recently approved in China. Microsoft has appealed to the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal in an effort to get Britain’s regulator to reconsider, but the clock is now ticking on this sorry saga, and if proceedings drag on for much longer, the trillion dollar Redmond firm may need to renegotiate with Activision Blizzard to extend the deal’s deadline – or pull out entirely.