Sony blasts Microsoft's Xbox Activision deal with a range of bizarre claims
Sony still isn't happy.
What you need to know
- Sony is once again upset about the Activision-Microsoft deal.
- In comments to the UK CMA, Sony claimed that Microsoft hasn't offered solutions, despite Activision CEO Bobby Kotick saying that Sony refuses to return their calls.
- Microsoft once again proposed legally binding mechanisms to continue bringing Call of Duty to PlayStation — something it was obviously going to continue doing anyway, like Minecraft.
- Sony also bizarrely claims that Microsoft will intentionally introduce bugs into the PlayStation versions of Activision games to undermine its business.
The UK competitions regulator known as the CMA just published its latest round of responses from Microsoft and Sony with regards to the big Activision deal.
Microsoft is trying to purchase Activision-Blizzard for a mammoth $69 billion dollars. Competition regulators across the world have been examining the deal, and what impacts it could have on the video game industry. The vast majority of parties involved are in favor of the deal, including Activision's shareholders, labor unions, and even Microsoft's competitors like NVIDIA and Tencent. One notable exception is, of course, Sony PlayStation, which has been putting out all the stops to try and get the deal blocked.
As part of the regulatory process, the CMA just published some of the responses from Microsoft and Sony. Microsoft has offered Sony an unprecedented and legally-binding 10-year deal for Call of Duty, complete with content and feature parity. Microsoft has also offered the same deal to Steam for PC, NVIDIA GeForce Now cloud gaming, and Nintendo Switch, all of which currently lack the popular shooter. Despite being legally binding with offers of third-party oversight (something Microsoft had to do for LinkedIn in the past), Sony still isn't happy.
Sony claims that Microsoft hasn't made any attempt to engage with it over the details of the deal, which is odd, considering Microsoft repeatedly and publicly has offered a legally binding deal to Sony for Call of Duty. "In the intervening period, Microsoft has not shown any real commitment to reaching a negotiated outcome. They have dragged their feet, engaged only when they sensed the regulatory outlook darkening, and favored negotiating with the media over engaging SIE (Sony)."
UPDATE (March 9, 2023): Activision CCO and EVP for corp affairs Lulu Cheng Meservey just revealed on Twitter that SIE president Jim Ryan stated behind closed doors to EU regulators that he doesn't want to negotiate for Call of Duty, he just wants to block the deal. The original article continues below.
In response to the CMA's claims that the Nintendo Switch couldn't run Call of Duty, Microsoft listed a slew of games that are optimized for current-gen systems but also run absolutely fine on the Nintendo Switch, including DOOM Eternal, Apex Legends, and so on. Activision has estimated that such optimizations could be completed in a redacted amount of months. Microsoft also once again reiterated that it proposes a package of legally binding licensing clauses to ensure PlayStation's so-called "concerns" are met.
Microsoft also offered to put Call of Duty on PS+ subscription service, but Sony says in the documentation that it would hurt their $70 retail game business, thus making Call of Duty an Xbox Game Pass exclusive — which would also hurt their $70 retail game business. There is of course no mention of how consumers would benefit from getting Call of Duty in PS+ or Xbox Game Pass, though.
Windows Central's Take
Sony's claims that Microsoft has refused to negotiate directly contradict Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, who was on the record saying that Sony was rejecting calls from Microsoft and Activision over the matter. It's potentially a smart play by Sony since the UK has no typical legal mechanism to present these arguments in a court of law. Sony is thus able to present the situation with "creative" impunity since it only needs to convince the demonstrably inept UK regulator. Sony very laughably alleges that Microsoft will intentionally add bugs to the PlayStation versions of Call of Duty to undermine its platform. This is the level we're playing at now, and the worst part is, the UK regulator will probably buy it.
Microsoft's chances with regulators in the United States and the European Union seem far better. Microsoft can drag the FTC to court to close the deal in the U.S. potentially and lay all the facts out on the table. Generally, the European Union seems more favorable to the deal owing to its penchant to look at the facts of the matter, unclouded by political ideology. In the case of the UK, sadly, the CMA doesn't know its arse from its elbow, to use a British expression.
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick recently noted that the UK would become a tech investment "Death Valley" should it block the deal, a possibility exemplified by the fact famed UK chip maker, Arm, snubbed its own local stock exchange for a public listing in the United States instead.
I just want Starcraft 3.
Huge thanks to @Rand_Al_Thor_19 and @EverbornSaga for the tips.
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Jez Corden 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 caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!