The gaming world shook a little when Microsoft announced they would be acquiring Activision Blizzard. Activision Blizzard holds ownership over several popular IPs including Overwatch, Diablo, and Call of Duty, each of which would potentially become Xbox exclusives after the acquisition.
Call of Duty is of particular note given its massive player base on PlayStation consoles. Fans and industry leaders have wondered what it would mean for the gaming industry and fans if franchises as big as Call of Duty became console exclusive. In the immediate, it could end up shifting the dynamics between Sony and Xbox in favor of the latter. In the long run, it could turn the industry into a war of attrition where almost all games end up as console exclusives.
For now, it appears that this issue is weighing heavily on the minds of both regulators and executives. According to a report by VGC, antitrust regulators may not allow the acquisition if Xbox does plan to make Call of Duty a console exclusive. To do so would be to prevent competition, the exact thing regulators are there to look out for.
Perhaps in anticipation towards these legal challenges, both Sony and Xbox have made various statements about the game. Sony, in a statement to the Wall Street Journal (via VGC), has stated that they expect Microsoft to continue allowing for Activision Blizzard to make multiplatform games. CEO of Microsoft Gaming Phil Spencer make a post on Twitter, stating that he spoke with Sony and “confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation.”
Had good calls this week with leaders at Sony. I confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. Sony is an important part of our industry, and we value our relationship.— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) January 20, 2022
When Microsoft has acquired studios in the past, it has honored existing contractual agreements. Most recently when it acquired Bethesda, the company allowed for games like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo to remain on PlayStation as had been planned pre-acquisition. However, newer games don’t seem to be making their way to PlayStation consoles anytime soon.
This precedent sets an uncertain picture for the future of multiplatform Activision Blizzard. While the statements seem to indicate that current and currently planned games will remain on the PlayStation, they are less clear about what happens to the next set of games. For example, this generation’s Call of Duty may remain on PlayStation but will the next one be once the acquisition gets past regulators?