Regulators have raised concerns that Microsoft could block the hit Call of Duty franchise from being released on rivals’ games consoles. Microsoft said it has offered Sony a 10-year contract for Call of Duty to be released on the PlayStation on the same day it comes to the Xbox. The U.S. giant is trying to assuage regulators’ and competitors’ fears.
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Microsoft President Brad Smith said the company offered Sony a 10-year contract to make each new release of Call of Duty available on Sony’s PlayStation console at the same time as the U.S. giant’s Xbox.
The Redmond-headquartered tech giant is hoping the move will assuage regulators’ and its rivals’ antitrust fears over its proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the developer behind Call of Duty, a popular shooter game.
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Last month, Politico reported that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is likely to file an antitrust lawsuit to block Microsoft’s takeover of Activision.
In response, Smith wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Monday defending the acquisition as “good for gamers” and criticizing any potential FTC lawsuit.
“That would be a huge mistake. It would hurt competition, consumers and thousands of game developers,” Smith said of the reported lawsuit.
Regulators in the European Union and the U.K. have opened antitrust probes into Microsoft’s proposed takeover to examine whether the deal would hurt competition. The EU is concerned Microsoft may block access to games such as Call of Duty to rivals.
Sony shares sank initially after Microsoft announced the acquisition plans in January as investors feared PlayStation would not get access to hit Activision games. But Microsoft has looked to assuage those fears.
Any move to make Call of Duty unavailable to Sony’s PlayStation console would be “economically irrational,” Microsoft’s Smith said because a “vital” part of the game’s revenue comes from PlayStation game sales.
“Given the popularity of cross-play, it would also be disastrous to the ‘Call of Duty’ franchise and Xbox itself, alienating millions of gamers.”
“That’s why we’ve offered Sony a 10-year contract to make each new ‘Call of Duty’ release available on PlayStation the same day it comes to Xbox. We’re open to providing the same commitment to other platforms and making it legally enforceable by regulators in the U.S., U.K. and European Union.”
Still, there are questions as to whether this will be enough to calm Sony’s concerns.
“A 10-year commitment sounds significant, Sony would be indeed ‘safe’ during the lifecycle of the PlayStation 5 but could run into trouble by the time the next console generation begins,” Serkan Toto, CEO of Tokyo, Japan-based games consultancy Kantan Games, told CNBC.
“So I believe the offer will not be enough to squash Sony’s concerns, but it might calm down regulators to some extent.”