What do you want to know
- Microsoft’s Frank X. Shaw claimed that Sony recently lied to European Union (EU) regulators about its pending acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
- Specifically, Shaw says Sony told the EU that Microsoft was unwilling to offer the PlayStation maker parity with Call of Duty, despite Microsoft previously offering a 10-year deal.
- Microsoft continues to claim that it wants to bring games to more people, not fewer, and that making Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox would “defy business logic”.
As Microsoft’s planned $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard continues to draw intense scrutiny from regulators, the company has claimed that Sony – the producer of PlayStation and one of the biggest opponents of the deal – recently lied to the European Union (EU) about its plans for Call of Duty. While Microsoft has publicly pledged to keep the popular first-person shooter franchise on PlayStation once the merger is complete, the company says Sony has suggested otherwise to Brussels officials. The news comes as the EU reportedly intends to serve Microsoft with an antitrust warning over the deal.
“I hear Sony is telling people in Brussels that Microsoft is not willing to give them parity for Call of Duty if we acquire Activision. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. he adds. wrote Frank X. Shaw, vice president of communications at Microsoft. “We’ve been clear that we’ve offered Sony a 10-year contract to give them parity on timing, content, features, quality, playability and every other aspect of the game. We also said that we were happy to make this enforceable through contract, regulatory agreements or other means.”
Call of Duty, a series that frequently hosts countless players and hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, is undoubtedly one of the biggest entertainment franchises in the world. Microsoft initially offered Sony terms to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for three years after it completed its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which CEO Jim Ryan called “inadequate” in a statement. Following this, Microsoft offered Sony a 10-year deal, with the two companies meeting to discuss specific details. The full outcome of those talks remains unknown, but based on Shaw’s public statements, it appears an agreement has not been reached.
Microsoft has repeatedly asserted that making Call of Duty exclusive to its Xbox consoles would not be in line with its plans, with Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer stating that Microsoft primarily acquires Activision Blizzard for its dominant position in mobile gaming and that the company “wants to be where the gamers are, especially with franchises the size of Minecraft and Call of Duty.” In an op-ed, Microsoft President Brad Smith also wrote that making Call of Duty exclusive would be “economically irrational” because “a critical portion of Activision Blizzard’s ‘Call of Duty’ revenue comes from PlayStation game sales” . Shaw reiterates these arguments in his own comments.
“Sony is the console market leader and it would defy business logic for us to exclude PlayStation gamers from the Call of Duty ecosystem,” Shaw said. “Our goal is to bring Call of Duty and other games – like we did with Minecraft – to more people around the world so they can play them where and how they want.”
Regulators are expected to make final decisions on the merger in the spring, with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) expected to share a preliminary decision in late January or February. The EU and CMA are due to deliver their verdict on April 11 and 26, respectively.
Notably, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has already filed a lawsuit to block the deal, citing recently acquired ZeniMax’s upcoming Xbox and Windows PC exclusive games, such as Starfield and Redfall, as examples of the reason why the company cannot be trusted. (Microsoft never committed to making these games cross-platform). Earlier this week, a report suggested the FTC had timed its lawsuit to manipulate the EU and discourage the regulator from reaching a settlement with Microsoft over its concerns about the deal.
The Windows Central point of view
Between the time the FTC allegedly timed its merger lawsuit to manipulate the EU to avoid settlements with Microsoft and Sony outright lying about Microsoft’s planned commitments, it’s hard not to laugh at the way things have become ridiculous. Assuming Shaw’s claims are true, Sony’s approach to opposing the merger has reached a new level of bad faith. It reminds me of when the company complained that Microsoft might raise its Xbox prices after buying Activision Blizzard, just months after raising the cost of its own PS5 systems.
Admittedly, Microsoft may not be honest here. However, unlike Sony, it is proven to be really ready to come to the table, with the company repeatedly stating publicly that it is happy to work with regulators and negotiate with competitors. Notably, Microsoft even made 10-year commitments to bring Call of Duty to Steam and Nintendo Switch, showing its willingness to bring Activision’s first shooter to platforms other than its own. For these reasons, and because of Sony’s conduct thus far, I am strongly inclined to believe Shaw’s assertion.
Ultimately, it’s become increasingly clear that Sony is willing to say or do whatever it needs to do to obstruct the Microsoft acquisition, and that now includes blatantly lying to regulators. So I ask this: who is really trying to stifle competition?
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