Sony has labeled Microsoft’s offer to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation “inadequate on many levels.” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer revealed to The Verge last week that the company is committed to keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation for “several more years” beyond the existing marketing deal Sony has with Activision. Sony isn’t impressed, though, just as Microsoft is in the middle of trying to get its $68.7 billion Activision Blizzard deal approved by regulators.
“Microsoft has only offered for Call of Duty to remain on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement between Activision and Sony ends,” explains PlayStation chief Jim Ryan in a statement to Games Industry.biz. “After almost 20 years of Call of Duty on PlayStation, their proposal was inadequate on many levels and failed to take account of the impact on our gamers. We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest quality Call of Duty experience, and Microsoft’s proposal undermines this principle.”
Ryan’s statement makes it clear that “several more years” is actually three years after Sony’s Call of Duty marketing deal ends. Bloomberg originally reported earlier this year that Microsoft was committed to releasing Call of Duty on PlayStation “for at least the next two years,” suggesting that Sony’s marketing deal for the franchise could expire in 2024. That could mean Microsoft has only offered up until 2027.
“I hadn’t intended to comment on what I understood to be a private business discussion, but I feel the need to set the record straight because Phil Spencer brought this into the public forum,” continues Ryan in the statement. Spencer said Microsoft’s offer “goes well beyond typical gaming industry agreements,” but it’s clearly not enough to ease Sony’s concerns over the franchise.
Lawyers for Sony and Microsoft have been arguing over the importance of Call of Duty in documents submitted to Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) regulator, and it’s clearly a big deal for both companies. Sony claims it would be difficult for other developers to create a franchise that rivals Activision’s Call of Duty and that it stands out “as a gaming category on its own.” Microsoft argues it’s not as important as its rival makes it out to be. The reality is somewhere in the middle.
Microsoft may well need to offer more guarantees over Call of Duty’s future to Sony, especially as competition fears over the franchise are being examined by regulators in the UK, Europe, US, and elsewhere. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) moved to investigate Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal more closely last week. The CMA is moving to a Phase 2 investigation that will see it appoint an independent panel to determine whether Microsoft’s control over games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft could harm rivals.