Is Sony asking for PlayStation VR support as a concession in the Xbox-Activision deal?

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0 Season 1 Launch Event
(Image credit: Activision)

An interesting snippet in the most recent Xbox-Activision regulatory responses may offer a glimpse at how Sony is angling to get at least something out of the big Microsoft acquisition. 

Indeed, Microsoft is trying to purchase Activision-Blizzard, known for games like Call of Duty, Candy Crush, and Warcraft. Most regulators and industry figures are positive about the deal, which would see competing cloud firms given access to Call of Duty and other Activision-Blizzard titles. One big opponent of the deal is Sony PlayStation, which worries that Call of Duty on Xbox Game Pass will hinder its profitability, given that many users may ditch the $70 yearly Call of Duty for a $10 per month Xbox Game Pass subscription instead. 

Sony has made various arguments against the deal, including the "concern" that Microsoft may introduce intentional bugs into Call of Duty on PlayStation, or remove Call of Duty from PlayStation altogether. In response, Microsoft has offered to place the deal under a third-party independent overseer to ensure quality parity, while also offering Sony PlayStation a ten-year license for the game — a length of time that is seen as unprecedented in the industry for a game of this size. 

In any case, some redacted mentions in the UK CMA filings may have unintentionally outed what Sony hopes to gain from the deal, and it could be VR-related.

(Image credit: UK CMA)

Of the big three console manufacturers, Sony is the only player pushing virtual reality. With its impressive PlayStation VR 2 platform (PSVR2), Sony arguably has the best VR headset on the market right now, competing against Facebook's Meta Quest 2. The Meta Quest headsets are wireless but lack the fidelity and IP power that Sony's PSVR2 has, which features games from some of Sony's biggest franchises.

A very large redacted section in the UK CMA filings contains a [12] footnote linking to PSVR2, that the CMA clearly forgot to remove. The redacted section pertains to remedies Sony would potentially be satisfied with. If the citation links to PSVR2, it's not a stretch to think that Sony is exploring ways to get Microsoft to commit to supporting its VR platform, should the deal go ahead.

The reason I find this interesting pertains to some unverified industry rumors I once heard. Sources familiar with proceedings prior told me that one of Sony's conditions for allowing cross-play between Xbox and PlayStation for certain games was the inclusion of Minecraft on PSVR 1. From what I understand, Microsoft initially hadn't planned on porting Minecraft to PSVR, but a compromise between the two firms over cross-play led to its eventual inclusion. PSVR2, as of writing, doesn't yet have a version of Minecraft, and there's no confirmation that it's on the way either. PSVR2 isn't backward compatible with PSVR 1 games, owing to large improvements Sony made to the headset's sequel. The footnote may be referring to this fact as well, if it isn't simply calling for Microsoft to fully support PSVR 2 with other Activision-Blizzard games, such as Call of Duty. 

I think it would be a fair trade-off in essence, given that Microsoft is moving its strategy away from VR towards the cloud, while Sony does the opposite. Microsoft will gain control over some of the world's largest and most beloved franchises. While VR remains comparatively niche compared to mobile, console, and PC, supporting the expansion of gaming everywhere becomes part of Microsoft's responsibilities, if it is allowed to grow so large as a result of this deal. 

This is just speculation, though. As long as the full section remains redacted, we have no idea exactly what context PSVR 2 is referenced in. Still, it is quite interesting, to say the least. 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!