In a response to the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Sony has claimed Microsoft could launch inferior games on PlayStation, in an effort to alienate players and force them to adopt Xbox consoles.
The published statement, which was penned to address a recent CMA ‘provisional warning’ over the proposed deal, included claims that Microsoft would jeopardise its reputation in an effort to dominate the games industry.
‘Swiftly detecting any diversions from, and ensuring compliance with, a commitment as to technical or graphical quality would be challenging,’ Sony said of the potential issues with Microsoft helming development on Call of Duty. ‘For example, Microsoft might release a PlayStation version of Call of Duty where bugs and errors emerge only on the game’s final level or after later updates.’
‘Even if such degradations could be swiftly detected, any remedy would likely come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as a go-to venue to play Call of Duty. Indeed, as Modern Warfare II attests, Call of Duty is most often purchased in just the first few weeks of release.’
‘If it became known that the game’s performance on PlayStation was worse than on Xbox, Call of Duty gamers could decide to switch to Xbox, for fear of playing their favourite game at a second-class or less competitive venue.’
Read: Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal gets CMA provisional warning
Sony argued that pricing would also be a contentious issue, as Microsoft could ‘raise the price of Call of Duty to degrade PlayStation’s competitiveness’. While the company acknowledged Microsoft’s offered deal to bring Call of Duty to all platforms, including PlayStation, it claimed the terms of this deal could be worked around, to better position Microsoft in the gaming market.
‘It is not clear how any behavioural commitment could adequately address such a concern in a dynamic industry such as gaming,’ Sony said of potential caveats to the Activision Blizzard deal. ‘Even a monitoring trustee backed by a licensing commitment based on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms raises intractable practical problems: Who would set prices and how? What level of information sharing and communications would be permissible? How would it be determined whether prices were fair?’
Sony is not confident that Microsoft would stick to its promises, as the benefit would allegedly not outweigh the potential gain of forcing players to join the Xbox ecosystem. It’s for this reason that Sony believes Microsoft would deliberately sabotage new releases like Call of Duty, creating a hostile atmosphere that guides players towards Xbox.
It further pointed out that Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax (The Elder Scrolls, Fallout) led to exclusive game arrangements, despite Microsoft telling the European Commission it ‘would not have incentive to cease or limit making ZeniMax games available for purchase on rival consoles’. Should a similar shift happen, Sony believes the CMA’s proposed ‘behavioural remedies’ would not have the impact intended.
In its conclusion, Sony rejected the remedies offered by the CMA, and claimed there was no ‘realistic prospect’ for any arrangement that would not devolve into anti-competitive practice.
You can read the full statement via the CMA website to understand more about Sony’s stance, and why it may lead to further delays in a final outcome for Microsoft’s proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition.