Call of Duty Will Remain on PlayStation Beyond Current Agreements Amid Regulation Concerns

Nathan Birch
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Since Microsoft’s surprise purchase of Activision Blizzard, the debate has raged – will Call of Duty become an Xbox exclusive? It’s been reported Microsoft has to bring the next three Call of Duty titles to PlayStation due to pre-existing contractual agreements, but what about after that?

Well, Microsoft vice chairman and president Bradford Lee Smith has sent down the final word on the subject in a blog post headlined Adapting Ahead of Regulation. As the title implies, it seems Microsoft anticipates there may be regulatory concerns from the US Federal Trade Commission (and similar authorities in other countries) regarding their purchase of Activision Blizzard, and app stores in general. As such, Microsoft promises it will continue to publish Call of Duty and “other popular Activision Blizzard titles” on PlayStation platforms beyond existing agreements. This philosophy will apparently be extended to Nintendo platforms as well.

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We recognize that regulators may well have other important questions as they review our acquisition of Activision Blizzard. We’re committed to addressing every potential question, and we want to address publicly at the outset two such questions here. First, some commentators have asked whether we will continue to make popular content like Activision’s Call of Duty available on competing platforms like Sony’s PlayStation. The obvious concern is that Microsoft could make this title available exclusively on the Xbox console, undermining opportunities for Sony PlayStation users.

To be clear, Microsoft will continue to make Call of Duty and other popular Activision Blizzard titles available on PlayStation through the term of any existing agreement with Activision. And we have committed to Sony that we will also make them available on PlayStation beyond the existing agreement and into the future so that Sony fans can continue to enjoy the games they love. We are also interested in taking similar steps to support Nintendo’s successful platform. We believe this is the right thing for the industry, for gamers and for our business.

It will be very interesting to see how broadly these new policies are applied. The way things are worded in Microsoft’s blog post, it feels like they could apply to almost any Xbox exclusive. How do you justify making something like Starfield exclusive when bringing Call of Duty to PlayStation is the “right thing for the industry”? Is this a shift away from Microsoft’s recent policy of growing Game Pass, and the Xbox brand in general, through the acquisition of IP and studios? It’s hard to say, but Microsoft’s article seems to imply the focus going forward will be on increasing the accessibility of services like Game Pass, rather than loading up on exclusives…

Our vision is to enable gamers to play any game on any device anywhere, including by streaming from the cloud. App stores on the most relevant and popular everyday devices like mobile phones; PCs, including Windows PCs; and, in time, the cloud, are important to realizing this vision.

But too much friction exists today between creators and gamers; app store policies and practices on mobile devices restrict what and how creators can offer games and what and how gamers can play them. Our large investment to acquire Activision Blizzard further strengthens our resolve to remove this friction on behalf of creators and gamers alike. We want to enable world-class content to reach every gamer more easily across every platform. We want to encourage more innovation and investment in content creation and fewer constraints on distribution. Put simply, the world needs open app markets, and this requires open app stores. The principles we’re announcing today reflect our commitment to this goal.

What do you think about all this? What does this statement mean for the future of Call of Duty, Xbox Game Pass, and the future of gaming in general?

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