Microsoft has claimed that Sony’s current Call of Duty marketing deal is “restricting” Activision’s big-budget shooter series from appearing on Xbox Game Pass.
Details come from Xbox full response to a file last week by the UK Competition and Markets Authority, in which the regulator raised its current concerns about Microsoft’s ongoing bid to acquire Activision Blizzard worth $68 billion.
Sony’s current marketing deal with Call of Duty sees the use of the PlayStation branding along with advertising, while players on Sony platforms get early access to in-game content.
In Microsoft’s response, in a footnote to the main text, the Xbox maker referenced Phil Spencer’s January 20, 2022 tweet that stated Microsoft’s intention was to “honor all existing agreements upon the acquisition of Activision Blizzard.”
Microsoft goes on to say that the current agreement with Activision Blizzard and Sony “includes limitations on Activision Blizzard’s ability to put Call of Duty titles on Game Pass for a number of years.”
What we don’t know is the nature of these “restrictions”, and whether they amount to an entire block of release of Call of Duty on Game Pass, or whether that would result in some kind of penalty for Activision Blizzard – such as as compensation for users who claim copies or make Download it, which will then pass it on to Sony.
We also don’t know how long these restrictions might last – it hasn’t been explicitly said that they will continue beyond the end of the current deal, which will last for a few more Call of Duty games yet, or whether existing games will still be unable to join Xbox Game Pass for some additional time in the future.
Obviously, though, Microsoft decided to include these details to highlight what it sees as the potential for future inclusion of CODs in Game Pass to be a sticking point for the CMA’s approval of the takeover offer. One suggestion here is that Microsoft might not be able to put COD games into Game Pass even if it wanted to. It can also be seen to indicate that Sony was already exercising the kind of game control that goes into the subscriptions that Microsoft has been accused of owning.
All of this also reinforces the ongoing discussions about competition in this field which may also affect the passing of the deal. On the other hand, CMA is interested in acquiring Microsoft which gives it an unfair advantage in the console market. On the other hand, Microsoft responded saying that its deal would give gamers more options, and that its competition with Sony prompted its rival to adopt its own subscription service.
Regulatory examination of Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard takeover highlights some interesting details – like the fact Game Pass earned $2.9 billion in the last fiscal year. In another interesting claim, Microsoft said last week that The PlayStation user base will be ‘much larger’ than the Xbox even if every COD player abandons Sony.
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