Microsoft has hit back at criticism from Sony over its proposal to bring the Call of Duty franchise to all gaming platforms over a 10-year period, claiming this is ‘sufficient’ for all parties. New documents published by the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and surfaced by VGC indicate that Microsoft believes 10 years is a reasonable guarantee, as it’s enough time for Sony to develop a rival to Call of Duty that may future-proof the company, should the franchise become an Xbox console exclusive in future.
‘At the Remedies Hearing the CMA asked Microsoft if the 10-year duration is sufficient and whether there would be a “cliff edge” for Sony at the end of this period,’ Microsoft said in a partially-redacted response to Sony’s concerns over Call of Duty. ‘Microsoft considers that a period of 10 years is sufficient for Sony, as a leading publisher and console platform, to develop alternatives to CoD.’
‘The 10-year term will extend into the next console generation … Moreover, the practical effect of the remedy will go beyond the 10-year period, since games downloaded in the final year of the remedy can continue to be played for the lifetime of that console.’
While not overtly specified, the wording of this response appears to leave room for Microsoft to make Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox, following the conclusion of its initial 10-year deal to bring new titles to
Read: Call of Duty is unlikely to be an Xbox-exclusive franchise
For now, the company is planning to bring Call of Duty to all consoles, with content and feature parity, although the far future of the franchise is now cloudier than ever. After the proposed ten-year release guarantee is up, Microsoft may very well re-assess its commitment.
Microsoft seems to believe Sony is well-equipped to develop a rival property in this absence – although the flippancy of its assessment seems to undermine Call of Duty‘s slow, laborious path to growth. The franchise was established two full decades ago, and only achieved widespread mainstream popularity in the 2010s after multiple iterations, console generations, and significant experimentation.
While Sony is a powerful player in the games industry, the market is now more competitive than ever, and already-established franchises are far more likely to attract fans. Even a decade would not be enough for Sony to develop a franchise with the tenure and name recognition of Call of Duty as it exists today.
As VGC points out, Sony has already recognised this, recently telling the Brazil Administrative Council for Economic Defense: ‘[Call of Duty] is an essential game: a blockbuster, an AAA-type game that has no rival … Call of Duty is so popular that it influences users’ choice of console, and its community of loyal users is entrenched enough that even if a competitor had the budget to develop a similar product, it would not be able to rival it.’
Regardless, it appears Microsoft is sticking to its argument. We’ll likely hear more from the company, and from Sony, as the UK CMA continues to investigate the consequences of the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard. A verdict on this particular analysis is expected to be handed down by 26 April 2023.