Microsoft’s main argument against Sony’s “Call of Duty” protests doesn’t work

Sony again It said Trying to convince regulators to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, again, citing the fact that they don’t believe Microsoft will offer them parity in Call of Duty once they own it.

Microsoft has repeatedly promised that’s not the case, even offering decade-long contracts to Sony to ensure Call of Duty appears on its system, but as annoying as it is, there’s no world where Sony is collaborating here. Either their protests work, and they help close the deal, which is what they want, or they don’t, the acquisition takes place, and Microsoft delivers Call of Duty to them anyway, as they’ve always been going.

But while I think Microsoft is telling the truth about its willingness to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation, I think Sony is lying about it Not Believing that Microsoft is in order to cause trouble, Microsoft’s argument here remains an argument that feels easily dismissed, and I wonder if it will eventually sway regulators.

Microsoft Communications Lead Frank Shaw took over Twitter To reiterate familiar talking points in the wake of Sony’s latest opposition:

The idea here is that Sony is the market leader, so of course Microsoft wants to sell copies of Call of Duty on PlayStation. However, Microsoft’s “case-by-case” basis for implementing this concept leaves them open to retaliation. And they… don’t seem quite equipped to answer that:

The point here is that if Microsoft says selling Call of Duty on PlayStation makes business sense, why doesn’t it also make sense to sell the next Redfall, Starfield, or Elder Scrolls game on PlayStation? We’re talking tens of millions of potential $70 copies sold here, but Microsoft uses some kind of invisible math to calculate that. Those Games make “business sense” on Xbox/PC only, keeping them apart from PlayStation. Likewise, I think you can simply say the opposite thing and at least get it sound Equally true. With Microsoft being the exclusive home console for Call of Duty, the world’s most popular shooter, it might make “good business sense” too.

There are different forms of response to this. The first asks why Microsoft was forced to this standard, while no one questions why PlayStation doesn’t offer God of War, Spider-Man, and The Last of Us on Xbox. Well, the answer is pretty easy, Sony isn’t trying to buy a publisher for $70 billion, so they don’t need to make such arguments, while Microsoft is trying to get regulators to agree to the biggest acquisition in video game history by a long shot. So yeah, there is a higher bar there.

I also alluded to this scheme that Microsoft made trying to explain why games like Starfield and Redfall make sense as exclusives, while Call of Duty and Minecraft don’t.

The idea here is that since both Redfall and Starfield are new, untested IPs, they have a higher value as exclusives, while since Minecraft and Call of Duty are more established with built-in player bases, they need to survive on multiple systems.

Sure, except that logic breaks down the moment we get past those two specific games. Microsoft has made it very clear that Elder Scrolls VI will likely be an Xbox exclusive, when the series has sold tens of millions of copies across all platforms and is a hugely established IP. Skyrim has sold 30 million copies, at last count. So why keep that away from PlayStation then? Because it’s a single player? I’m not sure that has anything to do with it exactly, especially if we’re talking about what makes or doesn’t make business sense. One concept is that the sheer amount of money Call of Duty makes from annual sales and microtransactions is enough to warrant multi-platform releases, but where is that line drawn? Microsoft has other multiplayer games, and other microtransaction games that of course remain exclusive. Starfield and the Elder Scroll will have add-ons and DLC, after all.

The problem with Microsoft’s argument is that it comes off as a purely arbitrary case-by-case basis in terms of what they will offer exclusively and what they won’t. They can say that keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation makes “business sense,” but then they duck when it comes to plenty of other games that might also sell millions of copies on other platforms.

I think Microsoft, and I think Sony is acting in bad faith. But that’s not the problem, because I’m not a regulator, and they’ve proven themselves to be more skeptical of all this, and have adopted most of Sony’s arguments to date. Microsoft remains confident the deal will close.

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