Microsoft (MSFT) and Sony (SNE) have reached a resolution over their contentious negotiations around the future availability of the highly popular video game franchise “Call of Duty” on PlayStation. The deal follows Microsoft’s impending $69 billion Activision Blizzard (ATVI) merger, marking a potential resolution to Sony’s long-standing complaints about the merger’s potential threat to competition.
A Binding Agreement
According to a tweet by Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Xbox head, Microsoft and PlayStation have signed a binding agreement to maintain the presence of “Call of Duty” on PlayStation following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard. He also stated his anticipation for a future where global players enjoy more options to play their favorite games.
The deal is set to potentially resolve Sony’s vocal criticism and concerns around Microsoft’s acquisition. The company had expressed fears that Microsoft could potentially make the “Call of Duty” franchise exclusive to Xbox or sabotage the PlayStation versions of the game. The continued availability of the franchise on PlayStation consoles is expected to help mitigate opposition and ease the acquisition process. Microsoft had previously inked multiyear licensing agreements with other rival companies such as Nintendo and Nvidia to prevent Microsoft from limiting Activision titles from users of other platforms and consoles. The company did not disclose the duration of the agreement with Sony initially. Kari Perez, head of global communications at Xbox, later confirmed the deal duration to The Verge, stating a 10-year commitment solely to “Call of Duty.” This revelation ends a year-long private and public battle that ensued after Microsoft announced its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard in January 2022.
In light of the recent agreement, the previous legal proceedings around the acquisition are worth noting. In a five-day federal court hearing, Microsoft executives, including CEO Satya Nadella, confirmed that properties like “Call of Duty” would remain accessible to competitors post-acquisition. US District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley expressed in her opinion that the US government failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on its assertion that Microsoft would likely pull “Call of Duty” from Sony PlayStation or that its ownership of Activision content would substantially lessen competition in the video game library subscription and cloud gaming markets.
A Stepping Stone for Future Gaming Industry Dynamics
While the previous offer from Microsoft in January 2022 aimed to keep all existing Activision console titles on Sony, including future versions in the Call of Duty franchise, until December 31st, 2027, the terms have now changed to a 10-year commitment limited to “Call of Duty.” These negotiations are a critical precedent for future discussions around content availability on various platforms in the ever-evolving gaming industry. The negotiations between Microsoft and Sony were punctuated by a volley of discussions, counteroffers, and tense communications over the past 18 months, indicating the high stakes and potential implications of such deals.
Microsoft has a contractual deadline of July 18 to close the merger with Activision, but the companies could mutually seek to extend that time frame. Nevertheless, the recent legal victories and the 10-year agreement with Sony bode well for Microsoft’s ambitious gaming market endeavors. Microsoft’s President Brad Smith reaffirmed this commitment: “Even after we cross the finish line for this deal’s approval, we will remain focused on ensuring that Call of Duty remains available on more platforms and for more consumers than ever before.” While the ink dries on this historic deal, the gaming industry waits to see how the Microsoft and Activision Blizzard merger will shape the future of gaming and the dynamic of platform accessibility. The gaming community can rest assured knowing that “Call of Duty” will remain a constant across different gaming consoles, continuing to provide an immersive and engaging gaming experience for fans worldwide.