Microsoft and Sony have reached a historic agreement to keep the popular Call of Duty franchise on PlayStation consoles, following Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the publisher of the game. The deal, announced on Sunday, July 16, 2023, ensures that PlayStation gamers will continue to enjoy the best-selling first-person shooter series for several more years, with feature and content parity with Xbox and PC versions.
Background of the deal
The agreement comes after months of uncertainty and speculation about the future of Call of Duty on PlayStation, ever since Microsoft announced its intention to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in January 2022. The acquisition, which is expected to close by July 18, 2023, would make Microsoft the owner of some of the most popular gaming franchises in the world, including Call of Duty, Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Candy Crush and more.
Many PlayStation fans and industry observers feared that Microsoft would use its power in the gaming market to make Call of Duty exclusive to its own platforms, or at least give Xbox and PC players an advantage over PlayStation players in terms of content updates, cross-play features and performance. Such a move could have a significant impact on Sony’s PlayStation business, as Call of Duty is one of the most popular and profitable games on its consoles, generating billions of dollars in revenue and attracting millions of players every year.
Sony itself expressed concern about the potential anti-competitive effects of the acquisition, as revealed by the testimony of Jim Ryan, the CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, which oversees PlayStation. Ryan said in June 2023 that he thought the proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition was not good for competition and that he was worried about Microsoft’s intentions regarding Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard games.
Details of the deal
However, Microsoft has repeatedly stated that it is committed to addressing the concerns of regulators, platform partners and consumers regarding the acquisition. The tech giant has also signed similar deals with Nintendo and cloud gaming providers to ensure that Activision Blizzard games remain available on more platforms and for more consumers than ever before.
The deal with Sony is perhaps the most significant one, as it involves Microsoft’s direct rival in the console gaming space. According to a tweet by Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, Microsoft and Sony have signed a binding agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for several more years beyond the current Sony contract, with feature and content parity. Spencer did not disclose the exact duration or terms of the deal, but he said that he was pleased with the outcome.
Brad Smith, the vice chair of Microsoft, also confirmed the deal on Twitter, saying that even after the acquisition closes, Microsoft will remain focused on ensuring that Call of Duty remains available on more platforms and for more consumers than ever before. Smith added that Microsoft respects Sony’s role in gaming and looks forward to continuing to work together.
Implications of the deal
The deal is a win-win situation for both Microsoft and Sony, as well as for Call of Duty fans. For Microsoft, it shows that it is willing to cooperate with its competitors and regulators to make the acquisition successful and avoid legal challenges. It also allows Microsoft to benefit from the revenue generated by Call of Duty on PlayStation consoles, as well as from other Activision Blizzard games that may be part of the deal.
For Sony, it ensures that it can retain one of its most important gaming franchises on its platform and avoid losing customers to Xbox or PC. It also demonstrates that Sony has a strong bargaining power in the gaming industry and can negotiate favorable terms with Microsoft. Moreover, it preserves the choice and diversity for PlayStation gamers who enjoy playing Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard games.
For Call of Duty fans, it means that they can continue to play their favorite game on their preferred platform without worrying about missing out on features or content. It also means that they can enjoy cross-play and cross-progression with their friends on other platforms, as well as access to future updates and expansions. The deal also signals that Microsoft and Sony are committed to supporting Call of Duty as a long-term franchise that will continue to evolve and innovate.
Microsoft and Sony have signed a binding agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for several more years beyond the current Sony contract, with feature and content parity. The exact duration of the deal is not disclosed, but it is expected to last at least until the end of the current console generation.