It’s getting more and more absurd. According to documents from the British CMA, Sony has apparently expressed concerns that Call of Duty for Playstation could be produced intentionally worse.
While Microsoft is struggling with promises and binding agreements to push through the planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard, more and more absurd statements are emerging from Sony. However, in the documents of the investigation by the British antitrust authority CMA that have now been published, the Playstation manufacturer has shot the bird.
Sony expresses the concern that Microsoft could degrade the quality and performance of Call of Duty on PlayStation compared to Xbox. Bugs and glitches are mentioned, for example, but also a lack of support, for example for the DualSense features. Possible price increases for Call of Duty on Playstation consoles are also mentioned.
“Microsoft could release a PlayStation version of Call of Duty where bugs and errors only appear in the last level of the game or after later updates. Even if such errors could be detected quickly, any remedy would probably come too late, leaving the player community lost confidence in PlayStation as a point of contact for Call of Duty,” the allegations read. Even if not, one might assume that Microsoft would give more support and priority to the Xbox versions.
Microsoft’s proposal would not provide adequate protection for PlayStation’s access to Call of Duty or for competition. Instead, it reveals Microsoft’s lack of commitment to ensuring full and equitable access to Call of Duty, acknowledges the risks of a behavioral remedy outlined in the Guidance, and reinforces SIE’s belief that Microsoft intends to strategically use Call of Duty to transform the gaming sector dominate.
Sounds pretty absurd now, because with buggy games and poor feature support, Microsoft would rather shoot itself and the Call of Duty brand in the knee and ruin its own reputation with the community than players would switch from Playstation to Xbox because of it.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has tied down long-standing deals with Nintendo and NVIDIA and appears to remain open to a similar deal with Sony, with Microsoft showing a willingness to keep CoD on the console even on the not-yet-available Playstation 6 in the CMA filings.
According to reports, the deals with Nintendo and NVIDIA have ensured that at least the EU Commission’s approval of the takeover is becoming increasingly likely. Do Sony’s rather absurd accusations come from the fact that the Playstation manufacturer is slowly running out of ideas to fight the takeover?
But maybe the reason is much simpler why Sony is getting involved in both a takeover and a new Call of Duty deal. According to Lulu Cheng Meservey, CCO at Activision Blizzard, Playstation boss Jin Ryan made it pretty clear on February 21 in Brussels: “I don’t want a new Call of Duty deal. I just want to block your merger.” So he doesn’t want an agreement at all, just blocking the takeover by any means necessary. However, that could backfire enormously, because the current agreement on CoD is said to only apply until next year.
Microsoft offered Sony (the dominant console leader for well over a decade, with 80% market share) a 10 year agreement on far better terms than Sony would ever get from us.
We’ve also offered Sony guaranteed long-term access to Call of Duty.
But they keep refusing.
— Lulu Cheng Meservey (@lulumeservey) March 8, 2023
Microsoft, meanwhile, has told Eurogamer colleagues: “Since the CMA published its preliminary findings, we have offered solutions that address their concerns and increase the benefits of the deal for UK gamers and game developers. These include an equality guarantee Xbox and PlayStation in accessing Call of Duty, and legally binding commitments to ensure Call of Duty is available to at least 150 million additional players on other consoles and cloud streaming platforms after the deal closes. […] It is now up to the CMA to decide whether to block this deal and protect Sony, the dominant market leader, or consider solutions that make more games available to more players.”