Bored of hearing about whether Microsoft will keep Call of Duty on PlayStation or not? Good, because so is Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer. In an interview on Decoder, a show hosted by The Verge’s Nilay Patel, Spencer has settled the debate over the future of Call of Duty on PlayStation once and for all.
“It’s not about at some point I pull the rug underneath PlayStation 7’s legs and it’s ‘ahaha you just didn’t write the contract long enough,’” says Spencer. “There’s no contract that could be written that says forever.”
Spencer has spent weeks responding to questions over whether Microsoft would make Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox if the company’s proposed $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard goes through.
The Verge revealed in September that Spencer made a written commitment to PlayStation head Jim Ryan earlier this year to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for “several more years” beyond the existing marketing deal Sony has with Activision. That letter was sent around the time Spencer publicly committed to Microsoft’s “intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation.”
Sony labeled Microsoft’s offer “inadequate on many levels,” and that has sparked a debate around whether Microsoft wanted to lock Call of Duty up after a few years. Spencer says he’s now open to making a commitment to Sony and regulators that Call of Duty will stay on PlayStation.
“This idea that we would write a contract that says the word forever in it I think is a little bit silly, but to make a longer term commitment that Sony would be comfortable with, regulators would be comfortable with, I have no issue with that at all,” says Spencer.
Some spectators on social media have been picking holes at Microsoft’s use of “intent,” or that it may require Sony to accept Xbox Game Pass on its platforms, or even that the company’s commitments are just words that need to be in a paper contract. Spencer doesn’t agree that this stuff needs to be written down.
Instead, Spencer is trying to make it clear that Call of Duty will remain on PlayStation, no strings attached, no need for Xbox Game Pass, and no trickery around “intent.”
Native Call of Duty on PlayStation, not linked to them having to carry Game Pass, not streaming. If they want a streaming version of Call of Duty we could do that as well, just like we do on our own consoles.
There’s nothing behind my back. It is the Call of Duty Modern Warfare II doing great on PlayStation, doing great on Xbox. The next game, the next, next, next, next, next [game]. Native on the platform, not having to subscribe to Game Pass. Sony does not have to take Game Pass on their platform to make that happen.
There’s nothing hidden. We want to continue to ship Call of Duty on PlayStation without any kind of weird ‘aha I figured out the gotcha’ as Phil said ‘our intent.’ I understand some people’s concerns on this, and I’m just trying to be as clear as I can be.
Besides Spencer’s comments, Microsoft also says keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation is a “commercial imperative for the Xbox business and the economics of the transaction” in filings to the UK competition regulator. Microsoft says it would put its own revenues at risk if the deal closes and it pulled Call of Duty from PlayStation and that “Microsoft has been clear that it is counting on revenues from the distribution of Activision Blizzard games on Sony PlayStation.”
So there you have it, Microsoft’s Xbox chief says Call of Duty will stay on PlayStation no strings attached. And Sony and regulators might even get a clearer commitment from Microsoft to secure that.