Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer told last week that the company is committed to keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation for “several more years” beyond the current marketing agreement Sony has with Activision. Sony has called Microsoft’s offer to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation “inadequate on many levels.” But at the same time as Microsoft is working to win regulatory approval for its $68.7 billion Activision Blizzard deal, Sony isn’t impressed.
“Microsoft has only offered for Call of Duty to remain on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement between Activision and Sony ends,” explains PlayStation chief Jim Ryan in a statement to Games Industry.biz. “After almost 20 years of Call of Duty on PlayStation, their proposal was inadequate on many levels and failed to take account of the impact on our gamers. We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest quality Call of Duty experience, and Microsoft’s proposal undermines this principle.”
Ryan’s remark makes it apparent that “several more years” refers to the three years following the conclusion of Sony’s Call of the Duty marketing agreement. Earlier this year, Bloomberg said that Microsoft was committed to publishing Call of Duty on PlayStation “for at least the next two years,” implying that Sony’s marketing agreement for the franchise might end in 2024. That might imply that Microsoft has simply provided a deadline of 2027.
“I hadn’t intended to comment on what I understood to be a private business discussion, but I feel the need to set the record straight because Phil Spencer brought this into the public forum,” continues Ryan in the statement. Spencer said Microsoft’s offer “goes well beyond typical gaming industry agreements,” but it’s not enough to ease Sony’s concerns over the franchise.
In documents given to Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) regulator, attorneys for Sony and Microsoft have been at odds over the significance of Call of Duty, and it’s obvious that it’s a significant matter for both businesses. The Call of Duty franchise, according to Sony, is unique “as a gaming category on its own” and would be challenging for other creators to match. Microsoft contends that it isn’t as significant as its competition portrays it to be. The truth lies someplace in between.
Given the competition concerns around the franchise being investigated by regulators in the UK, Europe, the US, and other countries, Microsoft may need to provide Sony with greater assurances over the future of Call of Duty. Last week, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) took action to further probe Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. In Phase 2, the CMA will form an impartial panel to assess whether Microsoft’s influence over games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft could hurt competitors.