Microsoft May Not Be Able To Drop Call Of Duty On Game Pass Even If It Wants To

Microsoft May Not Be Able To Drop Call Of Duty On Game Pass Even If It Wants To

It may be years before Call of Duty games can find their way to Xbox’s Game Pass platform, despite its acquisition of series publisher Activision Blizzard.

As spotted by both VGC and, earlier this month, the UK’s Competition And Markets Authority tasked with reviewing the merger decided to reject the first phase of approval and send it directly to the second phase. In its response to the CMA’s decision, Microsoft voiced its displeasure, but also dropped a few interesting pieces of new information about the merger, including apparently confirmation of the details around Call of Duty and Game Pass.

One particular footnote in the response raised eyebrows, referencing this tweet by Xbox head Phil Spencer in January. In the tweet, Spencer reassured industry contemporaries that it planned to keep CoD on PlayStation consoles, but seemed to allude to pre-existing agreements that would prevent Xbox from dropping Call of Duty on Game Pass day-and-date.

Sony, who Microsoft is locked in a legal battle with over the particulars of the acquisition, raised the same point during the review. The thinking was that, in the event that the acquisition went through, Microsoft would be free to drop Call of Duty, regularly the year’s biggest seller across all platforms, on its Game Pass subscription service. This, Sony said, would seriously hurt its earnings potential, as it would be forced to sell the game for full price against Microsoft’s significantly cheaper option.

However, the footnote in question is quite blunt. “The agreement between Activision Blizzard and Sony includes restrictions on the ability of Activision Blizzard to place Call of Duty titles on Game Pass for a number of years.”

This would seem to confirm the allusions in Spencer’s tweet: despite the value that Call of Duty represents in the scope of this acquisition, Xbox would not be able to wield its power over the franchise to the fullest.

This has left Microsoft feeling rather peevish, criticising the CMA’s expansion of the acquisition inquiry and claiming that it is waving through “Sony’s complaints without the appropriate level of critical review.”

Sony isn’t the only company the CMA thinks Microsoft’s mega-deal could impact. It says it is also concerned that an acquisition of this size and portfolio value could allow Microsoft to throw its weight around in a way that impacts other competitors like Nvidia and Amazon.

I know, I know, please won’t someone think of how this might hurt Amazon?

Despite the bickering between Sony and Microsoft over the terms, the CMA has been quite matter-of-fact about its goals for the review.

“After examining a range of evidence, the CMA believes that the Merger meets the threshold for reference to an in-depth phase 2 investigation, giving rise to a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition (SLC) in gaming consoles, multi-game subscription services, and cloud gaming services,” said the CMA in a statement. Its regulators are currently examining antitrust concerns around the acquisition, as the video games industry rapidly seeks to consolidate IP under single mega-umbrellas.

The second phase of the CMA’s investigation has begun with the creation of a panel that will pore over the deal to determine if it would actually have a deleterious effect on the competition. If it decides that the potential damage from the acquisition was, in theory, too substantial to entertain, the CMA is well within its rights to block the deal until Microsoft could satisfactorily address its concerns.

Thank you for stopping by Business Corner. We now return you to your regular video game news.

The Cheapest NBN 1000 Plans

Looking to bump up your internet connection and save a few bucks? Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Kotaku, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


8 responses to “Microsoft May Not Be Able To Drop Call Of Duty On Game Pass Even If It Wants To”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *