An Activision Blizzard executive claims that the CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment is committed to blocking the former’s merger with Microsoft, potentially at the expense of PlayStation’s access to Call of Duty.
Microsoft is currently trying to acquire Activision Blizzard, though it claims it doesn’t plan on making the games exclusive to the Xbox Series X|S. To guarantee this and appeal to the UK government’s Competition and Markets Authority, the body that approves company mergers that may create unfair monopolies, Microsoft reportedly offered Sony a ten-year agreement to ensure Call of Duty would continue to release on Playstation consoles.
However, according to an Activision executive (opens in new tab), head of Playstation Jim Ryan refused this offer saying, “I don’t want a new Call of Duty deal. I just want to block your merger.”
Microsoft’s ongoing attempt to acquire Activision Blizzard is on hold, following a lawsuit undertaken by the Federal Trade Commission of the United States. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) exists to enforce antitrust laws which seek to prevent the formation of monopolies. The FTC filed the suit on the grounds that Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard “would enable Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles.”
The FTC isn’t alone in its scrutiny of the acquisition. The UK government’s own Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) provisionally found that, since the acquisition would make it “commercially beneficial [for Microsoft] to make [Call of Duty] exclusive to Xbox… [the merger] would substantially reduce competition in gaming consoles to the detriment of gamers.”
With these assessments firmly in the public eye, it seems obvious why SIE would be keen on preventing the acquisition. However, even in this context, Ryan’s alleged statement is surprisingly mercenary in its treatment of the Call of Duty franchise in a manner that may well complicate the ongoing legal saga.
The Activision executive’s tweet initially came as a response to a tweet from Tom Warren (opens in new tab), senior editor at The Verge. In his tweet, Warren tweeted a quote from sony’s ongoing interactions with the CMA. In the quotation, Sony claimed that “Microsoft might release a PlayStation version of Call of Duty where bugs and errors emerge… Even if such degradations could be swiftly detected, any remedy would come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as the go-to venue to play Call of Duty.”
In discussions surrounding the potential for Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard to create illegal monopolies, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on Call of Duty. Microsoft and Nintendo even entered into a historic Call of duty agreement where the former committed to bringing the FPS juggernaut to Nintendo consoles to ease the concerns of the FTC and other antitrust bodies.
Jim Ryan’s alleged statement suggests that Call of Duty could be little more than a means to an end for Sony, a sentiment reminding us of the corporate world's cutthroat and mercenary nature. Should Ryan honestly not want a Call of Duty deal, Sony’s emphasis on the much-beloved series would seem disingenuous and potentially even hypocritical.
We have reached out to Sony for confirmation of Ryan’s statement.