Microsoft announced a 10-year partnership with Nintendo to bring the popular shooter franchise Call of Duty to Nintendo’s platforms, which is a huge win for the software giant in its fight to acquire Activision Blizzard.
Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s director of gaming, claimed to have secured a similar arrangement with Valve, ensuring that Call of Duty will continue to be available on Steam alongside Xbox for a further decade should the merger be finalized.
In light of these transactions, pressure is being applied to Sony by antitrust authorities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union to stop the $68.7 billion merger. Sony has based much of its case on the possibility that Microsoft would give the Xbox an unfair edge over the PlayStation by securing exclusive rights to the wildly successful Call of Duty franchise.
Microsoft has consistently refuted rumors that it will take this action, claiming that it would not be in the company’s financial interest to do so and citing the success of Minecraft as an example. Further emphasizing its case, it stated that it has offered Sony an agreement to retain Call of Duty on PlayStation for a period of 10 years.
Since accepting or commenting on this offer would hurt Sony’s case with regulators, the company has chosen to ignore it. Spencer hinted in an interview with the Washington Post that Sony would be wise to accept Microsoft’s assurances in good faith because of the completion of comparable accords with such significant industry participants as Nintendo and Valve.
Microsoft has entered into a 10-year commitment to bring Call of Duty to @Nintendo following the merger of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard King. Microsoft is committed to helping bring more games to more people – however they choose to play. @ATVI_AB
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) December 7, 2022
“The things I’ve heard and seen written in the press is maybe some intent on our side when we make public commitments to Sony, that our private commitments are untenable or don’t work for partners, or for Sony specifically,”According to Spencer.“Maybe some aura gets put around our words that maybe they’re not genuine, [but] when you have a company like Nintendo or a company like Valve believing in the commitment, and reaching agreement with Nintendo on something like this, we think it’s an important point to have out in the market.”
Microsoft intends to finalize the Activision Blizzard agreement by June 2023, but there is no firm timetable for when Call of Duty will initially debut on Switch or the platform that succeeds it.“you can imagine if [the deal] closed on that date, starting to do development work to make that happen would likely take a little bit of time,” According to Spencer.
He dismissed concerns that the Switch might not have enough power to run the games, saying that the ultimate goal would be to have new Call of Duty games available on Nintendo at the same time as Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.“From how you get games onto Nintendo, how you run a development team that is targeting multiple platforms, that’s an experience we have,” According to what he had to say.
However, multiple Call of Duty games were released for the Wii and even the Wii U, despite the series’ reputation for being unpopular on Nintendo hardware. Bringing Call of Duty back to Nintendo would be the first time since Call of Duty: Ghosts on Wii U was released in 2013 if Microsoft is successful in finalizing its deal.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released in 2022, and it was a huge success on Steam, making it the first game in the franchise to be released on Steam since 2017’s Call of Duty: WWII.
News accounts over the past several weeks indicate that Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard will face legal opposition from the United States Federal Trade Commission. The effective signs of approval from Nintendo and Valve, two of Microsoft’s greatest competitors in the game industry (apart from Sony), are, to put it mildly, opportune, given that the FTC is scheduled to meet to examine the merger on December 8.
These 10-year agreements do not ensure that Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard titles will be made available to any subscription services other than Microsoft’s Game Pass.
Sony has made the (very valid) case that Microsoft’s decision to make Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard heavyweights like Overwatch and Diablo exclusive to Game Pass would effectively eliminate competition in the gaming subscriptions business, where it is already the market leader.