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Shots fired as Microsoft and Sony reignite Call Of Duty parity debate

"Nothing could be further from the truth."

Call Of Duty is one of the franchises Microsoft will acquire through their purchase of publisher Activision Blizzard.
Image credit: Activision/Rock Paper Shotgun

Microsoft and Sony have been in a months-long back-and-forth over Microsoft’s proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition and the issue of Call Of Duty exclusivity, and they’re not done yet. In a series of tweets published last Friday, Microsoft’s chief communications officer Frank X. Shaw said Sony were “briefing people in Brussels claiming Microsoft is unwilling to offer them parity for Call of Duty if we acquire Activision," but added that “Nothing could be further from the truth.” I would have thought that a legal venue would be a more appropriate place to air these grievances, but I suppose this gets the job done quicker. Either way, it’s a toffee popcorn-worthy accusation in the ongoing drama.

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“We’ve been clear we’ve offered Sony a 10-year deal to give them parity,” said Shaw in a follow-up tweet. “We’ve also said we’re happy to make this enforceable through a contract, regulatory agreements, or other means.”

The 10-year deal was likely an attempt to appease regulators who cite CoD exclusivity as a potential problem with Microsoft’s deal. Nintendo have signed a different 10-year deal, though I doubt that one’s about parity since, y’know, CoD doesn’t exist on Nintendo systems yet. Valve’s Gabe Newell also refused to sign, but that was because he didn’t believe in “requiring any partner to have an agreement that locks them.”

Shaw continued to say that “Sony is the console market leader and it would defy business logic for us to exclude PlayStation gamers from the Call of Duty ecosystem,” pointing to Minecraft as an example. Then again, while Minecraft and its spin-offs have remained multi-platform since Microsoft's acquisition of developers Mojang back in 2014, sequels to other studio-acquired games such as Hellblade and The Outer Worlds are currently hitting Xbox and PC only.

Exclusivity arguments definitely won’t affect PC players, since MS is cool with simultaneous PC releases. But, these discussions might be the difference between an approval or a denial for Microsoft’s ActiBlizzard buyout. The US Federal Trade Commission have already moved to block the deal, and their reasoning mentions the Xbox-exclusive status of Redfall and Starfield. As for the “people in Brussels” mentioned in Shaw's Twitter thread, this is likely the EU antitrust body who have an April 12th deadline on whether they’ll approve Microsoft’s $69 billion buyout, and it’s currently looking like a thumbs down.

Microsoft had hoped to complete its takeover of ActiBlizzard by the end of its fiscal year in June, but the FTC’s hearings are set for August, potentially delaying the buyout. One way or another, we’ll find out the results by the end of the year.

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Call of Duty

PS3, Xbox 360

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Kaan Serin avatar

Kaan Serin

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Kaan Serin has been floating around as a games media freelancer ever since graduating with an English/Film degree. He now spends his free time campaigning for Banjo-Kazooie’s return
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