Sony is worried that Microsoft could sabotage PlayStation versions of Call of Duty if Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard were to be approved.
As first reported by The Verge, Sony submitted documentation to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority saying that Microsoft could do a variety of moves to make the Call of Duty franchise on PlayStation unappealing to play on. This includes things such as raising the price of the games, prioritizing the development of the Xbox version, or releasing a buggy build of the games on PlayStation.
“Microsoft might release a PlayStation version of Call of Duty where bugs and errors emerge only on the game’s final level or after later updates. Even if such degradations could be swiftly detected, any remedy would likely come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as a go-to venue to play Call of Duty,” Sony explained in the documents.
Sony continued, “Indeed, as Modern Warfare II attests, Call of Duty is most often purchased in just the first few weeks of release. If it became known that the game’s performance on PlayStation was worse than on Xbox, Call of Duty gamers could decide to switch to Xbox, for fear of playing their favorite game at a second-class or less competitive venue.”
Sony is positing that if the merger were to go through, Microsoft would have the incentive to allow Call of Duty to fail on PlayStation, as well as receive a higher revenue share for its content than if Activision was an independent entity. Additionally, Sony argues there would be no way for it, or the CMA, to monitor the quality of Call of Duty to ensure that the PlayStation version receives fair allocation of Microsoft’s development resources.
The battle continues
Call of Duty has been a key battlefield between PlayStation and Xbox since the Activision Blizzard merger was first announced. Xbox initially offered a three month extension to PlayStation for existing contracts, but PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan called the offer “inadequate.”
Xbox’s Phil Spencer has repeatedly said that as long as PlayStation exists, Call of Duty will continue to ship on its consoles.
Recently, Microsoft signed a 10-year deal to bring Call of Duty games to Nintendo devices on the same day as Xbox with full feature parity, as well as another 10-year deal to bring its PC games to Nvidia’s GeForce Now. It’s unknown whether these actions will be enough to get the deal through, but it’s been rumored that EU regulators are set to approve it.
George Yang is a freelance writer for IGN. He’s been writing about the industry since 2019 and has worked with other publications such as Insider, Kotaku, NPR, and Variety.
When not writing about video games, George is playing video games. What a surprise! You can follow him on Twitter @Yinyangfooey
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