Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard (opens in new tab) is under intense scrutiny from regulators around the world, with one of the main sticking points being the future of the Call of Duty series on PlayStation platforms. In an effort to address those concerns and push through the deal, Microsoft told the New York Times (opens in new tab) that earlier this month it committed to a 10-year deal with Sony to keep the Call of Duty series on PlayStation consoles.
It’s a bit ironic, because PlayStation owners have had a head start on the rest of us in recent years, with early access to Call of Duty beta tests and other content. That seems highly unlikely to continue once the series comes under Microsoft’s management, but Sony is more concerned that it could be discontinued altogether. Microsoft said shortly after the acquisition plan was announced that it “keep Call of Duty on PlayStation (opens in new tab)“but with no specificity beyond fulfilling agreements already in place.
The issue appeared to be a bit personal back in September, when Xbox boss Phil Spencer said Microsoft had guaranteed Call of Duty releases on PlayStation consoles “for at least several more years beyond the current Sony contract.” That prompted PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan to say the offer was only valid for three years after the end of the current deal, which he described as “inadequate on many levels (opens in new tab).”
In late October, Spencer said Microsoft would continue to release Call of Duty for PlayStation consoles “as long as there’s a PlayStation to ship to (opens in new tab)This new 10-year offer is slightly narrower than that, but also slightly easier to contract, and it demonstrates Microsoft’s determination to go through with the acquisition. It will also be much more difficult for Sony to decline. then wave vague promises and a three-year commitment.
Whether it will be enough to get regulators on board remains to be seen. Console exclusivity is just one problem: There’s also concern that having Activision games on Game Pass will give it “an unparalleled advantage” over other streaming services. Microsoft said in October that it has a deal with Sony keeps Call of Duty out of Game Pass (opens in new tab), but that will probably expire at some point; if that’s the case, it seems likely that Call of Duty will be one of Game Pass’ big games.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision is being reviewed by 16 different government agencies, according to the Times report. Saudi Arabia and Brazil have approved the deal, but agencies in the US, UK (opens in new tab)and EU (opens in new tab) keep investigating.