Sony has responded to Microsoft’s blockbuster proposal to buy Activision Blizzard with a comment on what that might mean for the future games like Call of Duty on PlayStation consoles. “We expect that Microsoft will abide by contractual agreements and continue to ensure Activision games are multiplatform,” a spokesperson tells The Wall Street Journal.
That statement’s wording is less than definitive. It’s not surprising that Sony would expect Microsoft to honor any existing contractual agreements regarding PlayStation games, as it did when PS5 console exclusive Deathloop was released after Microsoft’s acquisition of publisher Bethesda Softworks. Once existing agreements expire, it opens the door for Microsoft to pursue Xbox exclusivity for the many franchises it’s acquiring.
The big question is around Call of Duty. The franchise is hugely popular across both Xbox and PlayStation, but Sony has had a Call of Duty marketing deal in place with Activision for more than five years. “PlayStation is the new home of Call of Duty,” declared former PlayStation CEO Andrew House during Sony’s E3 2015 press briefing. Sony revealed in November that Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was the second most played PS5 game for the whole of 2021, behind only Fortnite. Call of Duty also secured both of the top spots for US game sales for the whole of 2021, according to NPD, highlighting its impact on the market.
Once Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal closes, Sony will be powerless over Call of Duty’s long-term future on PlayStation. Microsoft’s Bethesda acquisition led to Starfield becoming an Xbox and PC exclusive, and Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer is hinting that The Elder Scrolls VI will also be an Xbox exclusive.
“Activision Blizzard games are enjoyed on a variety of platforms and we plan to continue to support those communities moving forward,” said Spencer earlier this week. It’s easy to imagine a future where Microsoft maintains Call of Duty: Warzone across multiple platforms, but any future Call of Duty games go Xbox exclusive. After all, Microsoft isn’t spending $68.7 billion to keep publishing PlayStation games forever.