Sony And Microsoft’s Comments On Call Of Duty Exclusivity Are Clear As Mud

Sony And Microsoft’s Comments On Call Of Duty Exclusivity Are Clear As Mud
Photo: Christian Petersen, Getty Images

Here we go again. Will Activision Blizzard games be exclusive to Xbox after the recently announced $US68.7 ($95) billion deal finally goes through? Probably. But in the meantime both sides are saying just enough to keep all possibilities open, with Sony being the latest to add its vague comments to the growing pile.

“We expect that Microsoft will abide by contractual agreements and continue to ensure Activision games are multiplatform,” a Sony spokesman told The Wall Street Journal today. Read one way, it seems like confirmation that the owner of PlayStation thinks nothing will change. Read another, it means that existing Activision games will remain multiplatform, but doesn’t provide any clarity on what might happen to future projects that haven’t even been announced yet.

Of course, it doesn’t actually matter what Sony wants or “expects.” The ultimate decision regarding console exclusivity for Call of Duty and other big franchises like Diablo and Overwatch remains with Microsoft. Here’s what the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, recently had to say on the subject in an interview with Bloomberg:

I’ll just say to players out there who are playing Activision Blizzard games on Sony’s platform: It’s not our intent to pull communities away from that platform and we remained committed to that.

“Intent” is doing a lot of work there.

Activision Blizzard was similarly non-committal in an internal FAQ with employees about the Xbox deal that it disclosed to the SEC yesterday:

How does this transaction impact existing partner agreements (i.e., Sony, Google, Apple)? Will this change what we’re able to offer our partners or how we structure our agreements?

  • We will honour all existing commitments post close. As with Microsoft’s acquisition of Minecraft, we have no intent to remove any content from platforms where it exists today.
  • We would be open to discussions to enter into an agreement to confirm our intent when it is appropriate to do so.

Read More: What A Video Game ‘Exclusive’ Means In 2017

It’s all very reminiscent of the dance around exclusivity Microsoft and Bethesda did after the former announced it was buying the Elder Scrolls-maker for $US7.5 ($10) billion back in 2020. The deal wasn’t about “punishing” one group of players, or trying to “take games away” from them, Spencer said back then, and future exclusivity would be decided on a case-by-case basis. The end result was that while Micorosft honoured existing agreements for games like Deathloop (a PS5 exclusive for its first year), it eventually conceded that Starfield, which was in development years before the Bethesda deal took shape, would be an Xbox exclusive.

According to Bloomberg’s report, “Microsoft plans to keep making some of Activision’s games for PlayStation consoles but will also keep some content exclusive to Xbox.” That could mean that Call of Duty, consistently the best-selling game every year, will remain multiplatform. Or it could mean that nearly every new Activision Blizzard game except for its free-to-play battle royale, Warzone, won’t be coming to PS5.

The same question that came up with Bethesda arises now with Activision: why would Microsoft spend half of its total cash-on-hand in the biggest gaming acquisition ever to not make most of what it just bought exclusive? $US68.7 ($95) billion is a lot of money — more than the GDP of most countries — to spend just to make Diablo IV , Overwatch 2, and the next Black Ops day-one releases on Game Pass. But in the meantime everyone’s saying just enough to keep that possibility alive.

Comments

  • MS have Bethesda. That’s enough for me to make the switch from PS to XBOX. I ain’t missing out on Starfield, ES6 or the next Fallout game.

  • I think it’s unlikely they would go exclusive. I would expect they would be game pass titles or early access, but limiting the console options for the every years biggest selling game (COD) would be crazy.

  • For COD it is probably a smarter move to leave it multiplatform but then do something like include perks that speed up progression on all platforms if you are a Games Pass subscriber. It moves it from a one time decision to stay and abandon the game to a a tempting path of “Maybe I can try Games Pass for the cloud games and the progression boost” followed by “I am paying for Games Pass why not get an Xbox”

  • All future COD and Bliz games will 100% be exclusive going forward, as confirmed in their comments (no content will be “removed”). Additionally, this has been demonstrated as the strategy post-Zenimax.

    There is no ambiguity here and all other interpretations are grossly wishful thinking. You do not spend 70 billion dollars not to capitalise.

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