Call of Duty will be available to Nintendo players on the same day as Xbox with “full feature and content parity” under a 10-year agreement between the two platforms, Microsoft’s Brad Smith announced. The deal was announced in early December, but Smith is offering more details today ahead of a hearing in which Microsoft will argue its case with EU regulators to allow its $69 billion acquisition of Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard to proceed, Reuters reports.
As my colleague Tom Warren wrote back in December, the Nintendo deal is almost certainly part of Microsoft’s attempt to pressure Sony into accepting a similar offer and allay regulatory competition concerns. The PlayStation maker has emerged as one of the chief opponents of Microsoft’s proposed acquisition, saying it risks reducing competition by locking key franchises like Call of Duty to Xbox consoles and Microsoft services like Game Pass.
As well as Call of Duty, Smith’s tweet alludes to “Xbox games” more generally, though it doesn’t offer specifics on what franchises these may come from.
Smith has said that a similar 10-year deal is on the table if Sony wants to sign. But PlayStation chief Jim Ryan previously called a Microsoft offer to keep Call of Duty on Sony’s consoles for “several more years” beyond an existing marketing deal “inadequate on many levels.”
News of the deal comes as Microsoft is preparing to plead its case to EU regulators today. The closed hearing is expected to be attended by representatives from Microsoft including Brad Smith and Xbox head Phil Spencer, as well as Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, and Sony’s Jim Ryan. Representatives from Google, Nvidia, Valve, Electronic Arts, the European Games Developer Federation, and over half a dozen different national competition watchdogs are also expected to take part, per Reuters.
The EU reportedly issued a formal antitrust warning to Microsoft over the deal earlier this month, in which it’s believed to have expressed concerns over the deal’s impact on fair competition in the video game market. In response, Microsoft spokesperson David Cuddy said that the company is “committed to solutions and finding a path forward for this deal” and that it is “listening carefully to the [European Commission’s] concerns and are confident we can address them.”
Outside of the European Union, Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition has also faced opposition from UK and US regulators. The USA’s Federal Trade Commission filed a legal challenge to block the acquisition in early December 2022, arguing that it would “enable Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles and its rapidly growing subscription content and cloud-gaming business.” Meanwhile, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said the deal “could result in higher prices, fewer choices, or less innovation for UK gamers,” in provisional filings announced earlier this month.
Today’s statement from Microsoft says that the deal is to bring Call of Duty games to “Nintendo players,” without mentioning specific hardware like the Nintendo Switch. As it approaches its sixth year on the market, the portable Switch console is increasingly showing its age and relatively low processing power compared to the latest consoles from Sony and Microsoft, as well as the modern gaming PCs, where gamers typically play the latest Call of Duty releases. The last Call of Duty game to release on a Nintendo console was 2013’s Call of Duty: Ghosts on the Wii U.