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Sony’s PlayStation chief privately said Microsoft’s Activision deal wasn’t about Xbox exclusives

Sony’s PlayStation chief privately said Microsoft’s Activision deal wasn’t about Xbox exclusives


A bombshell email in the FTC v. Microsoft case.

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We’re only minutes into the FTC v. Microsoft hearing, and we’ve already had a bombshell revelation. Sony’s PlayStation chief, Jim Ryan, believed that Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard wasn’t about locking games as Xbox exclusives, according to a newly unsealed email. Microsoft counsel revealed the exchange between Ryan and Chris Deering, former CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, discussing the announcement of the deal last year.

“It is not an exclusivity play at all,” said Ryan. “They’re thinking bigger than that and they have the cash to make moves like this. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with both Phil [Spencer] Bobby [Kotick] over the past day and I’m pretty sure we will continue to see Call of Duty on PlayStation for many years to come.”

The surprise revelation runs counter to Sony’s arguments against Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal and its filings with regulators. Sony has maintained it fears Microsoft could make Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox or even sabotage the PlayStation versions of the game.

Ryan went on to say, “We have some good stuff cooking,” referring to Sony’s Bungie acquisition which Sony announced just days after the email exchange. “I’m not complacent, and I’d rather this hadn’t happened, but we’ll be OK, we’ll be more than OK.”

Microsoft initially offered Call of Duty on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement between Activision and Sony ends. Ryan called that offer “inadequate on many levels.” Microsoft eventually offered Sony a 10-year deal for Call of Duty on PlayStation, but the company has refused to sign this so far.

Call of Duty competition fears were initially a big part of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation before the regulator dropped the console concerns and ended up blocking the deal due to cloud market competition concerns. The European Commission also dismissed concerns about Call of Duty or Xbox exclusive games, but the FTC’s case is largely focused on the potential harm of Microsoft turning Activision games into Xbox exclusives across console, cloud gaming, and multi-game subscriptions.

“Today showed Sony has known all along we’ll stand by our promise to keep games on its platform and made clear its work to lobby against the deal is only to protect its dominant position in the market,” says David Cuddy, general manager of public affairs at Microsoft, in a statement to The Verge.

Update, June 22nd 5:15PM ET: Article updated with comment from Microsoft.