Sony is apparently putting serious resources into preventing Microsoft from acquiring Activision Blizzard.
A UK regulator has published Sony’s response to Microsoft’s ongoing acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The comments, previously kept confidential, have now been made public and provide a comprehensive insight into the specifics of Sony’s claims about the biggest deal in video games history.
Microsoft’s proposed $68.7 billion acquisition is currently under review by regulators in 16 countries, with Saudi Arabia and Brazil already approved.
But Microsoft’s luck is running out as more sceptical governments press ahead with their investigations. One such body is the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which invited the public to comment on the Microsoft merger last month. The call was followed by an Issues Statement outlining preliminary concerns, echoing similar rhetoric from Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan, who made the Call of Duty franchise the flashpoint of the legal conflict.
Xbox chief Phil Spencer and Ryan are increasingly public in their views. This is because initial talks between the two sides failed to reach an agreement. The latest CMA publications contain the most comprehensive details yet of the arguments put forward by Sony and Microsoft. Sony’s summary begins with a strong confirmation of the CMA’s findings. It states “strongly that the Transaction will harm competition, industry participants, innovation, and consumers.”
The gaming industry behemoth Call of Duty
Sony then goes straight to the heart of its concerns, pointing to Call of Duty as an item in Activision’s catalogue that would be ‘irreplaceable’ if a platform ever lost its ability to sell.
The PlayStation owner insists that by bringing Call of Duty “under Microsoft’s sole control”, one of its main competitors will gain an “an unprecedented content advantage.” Further details suggest that on 28 October, when these comments were submitted to the CMA, Sony was not convinced by promises that Call of Duty would remain on PlayStation. Sony specifically cited Microsoft’s failure to dispute its intention to make “Activision content exclusive to Game Pass” and subsequently exclude those properties from being available on PlayStation Plus. Sony details that it believes approving the deal would harm consumers, competition and independent developers.
The justification includes the assessment that if Call of Duty were to become exclusive, a “significant number of PlayStation users would likely switch to Xbox”. Further, the acquisition would “tip demand for multi-game subscriptions services towards Xbox/Game Pass,” resulting in a worse business environment for independent developers who benefit from healthy competition between Game Pass and PlayStation Plus.
After criticising Microsoft’s position, Sony concludes its comments by saying the deal “threatens the gaming ecosystem at a critical moment.”
But it is likely to find it challenging to overcome accusations of hypocrisy from some in the gaming community. Many have pointed out that PlayStation aggressively uses exclusive content to attract consumers.