One of the big concerns about Microsoft's ongoing $69bn acquisition of Activision Blizzard is that the deal will stifle competition. Major gaming franchises like Call of Duty, Diablo, Candy Crush, Warcraft, and Watchdogs will fall under the Xbox umbrella. Sony and regulators have expressed concerns Microsoft will eventually make these franchises exclusive to Xbox Game Pass.
While each of these brands is massive in its own right, Call of Duty is probably the most lucrative and popular. Microsoft has now moved to ease concerns about the future availability of the FPS franchise across platforms.
Since the announcement of the merger with Activision Blizzard, Microsoft has been consistent with its promise to maintain Call of Duty on other platforms, including Sony's PlayStation consoles. As the deal comes under investigative scrutiny in the UK, Microsoft is reaffirming that commitment.
In fact, in a letter from Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer to Sony PlayStation chief Jim Ryan, Spencer commits to Call of Duty staying on PlayStation “several more years” following the current marketing agreement.
Speaking to The Verge, Spencer explains that commitment:
“In January, we provided a signed agreement to Sony to guarantee Call of Duty on PlayStation, with feature and content parity, for at least several more years beyond the current Sony contract, an offer that goes well beyond typical gaming industry agreements.”
It is worth noting Spencer has also said it simply does not make economic sense for Microsoft to make Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox Game Pass. In other words, Microsoft understands this franchise is worth hundreds of millions and much of its success comes from being a cross-platform entity.
Importantly, Microsoft is being vaguer about the other major brands in the Activision Blizzard portfolio. It seems the company is on course to decide on a franchise-by-franchise basis which should be exclusive or not.
The exact number of years COD is guaranteed to remain on PlayStation is not clear. It is thought the current licensing deal runs for at least the next two years. Microsoft says it will stay for years beyond that, so post-2025 seems to be a certainty.
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