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Sony believes Microsoft will keep Call of Duty on PlayStation [UPDATED]

Following the blockbuster acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft, Sony expects existing contractual agreements to be honored.

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UPDATED 1/20/2022 @ 2:37 p.m. PT: Phil Spencer recently claimed via his Twitter that he had spoken with Sony leadership, confirming that existing contractual obligations for Activision Blizzard will be honored and the Call of Duty franchise will not be leaving PlayStation platforms as far as business goes for the time being.


Original StoryIn case you are just logging onto the internet for the first time this week, you may have missed a little bit of video game news. Microsoft surprised us all with the acquisition of Activision Blizzard on Tuesday morning and we are still in the fallout phase of the announcement. Many gamers had questions about what this news could mean for their favorite games. There has been speculation that Microsoft would make all Activision Blizzard IP exclusive to the Xbox and PC ecosystems, but rival Sony believes that existing contractual agreements will be honored. Sony and Call of Duty have long been partners and the popular shooter is likely to remain available for PlayStation owners.

A Sony representative spoke on the record with The Wall Street Journal about the situation. “We expect that Microsoft will abide by contractual agreements and continue to ensure Activision games are multiplatform,” the representative explained. In recent years, PlayStation consoles have seen exclusive content for Call of Duty games as part of an ongoing relationship between Sony and Activision Blizzard.

It makes sense that Microsoft would look to avoid a messy legal battle just to pull Activision Blizzard IP away from Sony. On top of that, keeping a franchise such as Call of Duty away from the millions of active PlayStation gamers would most likely result in declining revenues. Having total control of a product has its advantages, but they aren't worth ignoring a massive market of customers ready to buy said product.

An unnamed source familiar with the situation spoke with Bloomberg and expects Microsoft to leave some games available on PlayStation systems while others would become Microsoft-exclusive. We saw this previously with Minecraft, which stayed platform-agnostic following its acquisition by Microsoft back in 2014.

For more coverage on the Microsoft-Activision Blizzard megadeal, be sure to keep checking in with Shacknews. Additionally, you can also have a look at 10 questions about Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard as written by Senior Editor Ozzie Mejia.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 20, 2022 11:35 AM

    Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Sony believes Microsoft will keep Call of Duty on PlayStation

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      January 20, 2022 11:40 AM

      Short term, yeah. Long term? Via a game pass app on PS maybe. :)

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      January 20, 2022 11:41 AM

      Sony then added: ”🤞”

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      January 20, 2022 11:44 AM

      Yeah I'm sure they paid 70B to not have exclusives

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        January 20, 2022 11:59 AM

        They will definitely have exclusives, but Call of Duty is kind of a unique property. So like the next Tony Hawk, or Spyro 100% that is a MS exclusive. Call of Duty however I wouldn't be shocked either way. It all comes down to money and whether or not Microsoft is willing to eat those losses.

        Also the big money maker for ActivisionBlizzard is King, whose annual profits are bigger than Activision and Blizzard's combined.

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          January 20, 2022 2:36 PM

          I keep hearing people say King makes more than Activision Blizzard combined but if you look at the revenue that just isn't true. Yes, King makes more than Activision or Blizzard individually but as far as the statistics I'm seeing King doesn't make more than both COMBINED. So it's confusing to see people stating this like it's fact.

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          January 21, 2022 1:03 AM

          I think keeping COD multi-platform in the short to medium term is likely, reason being its not their aim to infuriate the gaming community, a lot of people people have spent a lot of money on PS5's assuming they were going to play that game. Taking something that immense away from people isn't a good look. Additionally it signals to regulators looking at the acquisition to that MS are not trying necessarily trying to lockdown the entire industry.

          That said, they'll probably do everything they can to make it look like a much better value on gamepass. And given enough time, it will just become thought of as an MS property, and so naturally will be come exclusive to gamepass when the next generation comes around.

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          January 21, 2022 2:05 AM

          Yeah, they're not going to piss of the "COD Bro Army" on Sony consoles. There's too many players.

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      January 20, 2022 11:49 AM

      The deal isn't going to close until mid 2023, and until then Activision is still an independent company. So at the bare minimum this years, and next years Call of Duty games will be multiplatform. I think the real question comes in for 2024.

      And from listening to Jeff Grubb on the Bombcast this week I guess Microsoft did actually consider keeping Bethesda games multiplatform but determined that a $500m loss over 10 years was worth keeping Starfield/Elder Scrolls exclusive. When it comes to Call of Duty you are looking at billions in losses over 10 years so it wouldn't surprise me if CoD stays multi-platform, similar to how Minecraft is multi-platform.

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        January 20, 2022 12:12 PM

        well, they said close by the end of MS FY 2023, which ends June 30 2023. It can close any time before that. And typically a deal like this doesn't close in the last month of a FY.

        I bet it closes April 2023. That way MS can figure out what it is depreciating for the end of year report.

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          January 20, 2022 12:17 PM

          We also don't know what sort of co-marketing or other deals Activision has in place for Call of Duty. Which is why I guessed that 2024 would be the first possible MS Exclusive CoD (provided there aren't any agreements with Sony, or Mountain Dew or whomever in place) since it gives MS time to fully evaluate everything without having to rush to make a decision on the 2023 Call of Duty in 6 months.

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            January 20, 2022 12:18 PM

            Yep - but all of those have buyout clauses. MS could pay them all off if they wanted to.

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              January 20, 2022 12:22 PM

              Yeah that just is part of the math. As I mentioned below it really wouldn't surprise me if they kept CoD multiplatform. Everything else besides CoD I expect will be Xbox/PC exclusive including Blizzard games.

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        January 20, 2022 12:14 PM

        And from listening to Jeff Grubb on the Bombcast this week I guess Microsoft did actually consider keeping Bethesda games multiplatform but determined that a $500m loss over 10 years was worth keeping Starfield/Elder Scrolls exclusive. When it comes to Call of Duty you are looking at billions in losses over 10 years so it wouldn't surprise me if CoD stays multi-platform, similar to how Minecraft is multi-platform.

        agreed. but what MS could do is keep CoD multiplatform and instead of doing yearly, expand the games to 2 year intervals, have content that goes past the firsts year, and take one of the teams off CoD to work on new IPs focused on Xbox. that would not shock me .

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          January 20, 2022 12:19 PM

          That was my thought as well. Move CoD to an every other year cadence. Let some of the other studios that are currently CoD support studios branch out.

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            January 20, 2022 12:20 PM

            and all the support groups like Raven. beef up the core teams, use the MS resources around the world to do the support work, and get those other groups back to making new games.

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              January 20, 2022 12:51 PM

              Yeah. Not sure who is left at Raven but with Phil Spencer talking about heXen I think we have a match.

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            January 21, 2022 1:06 AM

            Yeah with the ammount of teams MS has now, an annual franchise like COD doesn't make sense, especially when it's been going this long and starting to feel more than a bit exhausted. Consolidate the core team who are still invested in making COD games together, give them more time and space to rethink it and revitalise it.

            And like you said, allow the other support teams to try new things.

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        January 20, 2022 12:17 PM

        The deal can close as early as July 2022 as that's the start fiscal year.

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        January 20, 2022 2:33 PM

        damn mid 2023, they could squeeze out like two or three call of duty games in that time

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        January 20, 2022 7:32 PM

        And the company can't start changing their plans until the deal closes so Activision would continue to kick off their however long development effort for PS5 and XBOX versions of future games and continue to do so until the deal closes. At that point there's likely enough invested that they'd be put out on PS5.

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      January 20, 2022 11:53 AM

      Kinda like the drinking buddy who thinks thinks he'll be going out just as often after marriage and kids.

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      January 20, 2022 12:16 PM

      People that say Call of Duty doesn't matter to Sony are just finding out it does.

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      January 20, 2022 12:19 PM

      They only said they expect existing contracts to be honored. Because of course they will be.

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      January 20, 2022 12:19 PM

      Of course they do. Not gonna dare say anything else.

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      January 20, 2022 12:23 PM

      I really don't see Microsoft making Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox at any point. Doesn't make sense. Call of Duty made 3 billion in 2020 and even though Vanguard had notoriously poor sales (for Call of Duty), it was still the #1 game on PlayStation. That won't translate if you just cut and put it all on Xbox. You're leaving a good billion or so on the table. So undoubtedly a game like Call of Duty they'll continue to sell on PlayStation, but every GamePass subscriber will get it day 1 which is by far the better deal.

      Frankly, this is all archaic-sounding because the future isn't Xbox vs PlayStation. It's GamePass vs whatever the fuck Sony introduces. They'll sell you Call of Duty on PlayStation for $70 for as long as physical games matter, sure, but it won't be available on Sony's GamePass clone. We're witnessing the birth of Netflix vs Disney+ in gaming right now and Microsoft is positioned well to be the top dog.

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        January 20, 2022 12:48 PM

        Gamepass is starting to get pretty big.

        Now it has 25 million paying customers.

        Is it a wild guess that exclusive to Gamepass will generate 5 million more subscribers?

        That is 600 million per year plus showing healthy gains in paying subscribers will drive the stock price up.

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          January 20, 2022 12:57 PM

          Activision has 400 million active players monthly. Gamepass has had 40% growth this last year increasing to 25 million. Buying Activision is a direct purchase to increase Gamepass subscriptions, I personally don't think you cut the Activision's biggest property out of the exclusive to Gamepass deal just so you can be a publisher to Sony.

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            January 20, 2022 1:29 PM

            I take it back : https://twitter.com/XboxP3/status/1484273335139651585

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              January 20, 2022 1:39 PM

              “Our desire to” is standard corporate legalese for “negotiations will ensue”.

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                January 20, 2022 7:26 PM

                Yup. And license to make any changes at any point in time. It's a carefully chosen word but it's a way to seemingly soothe some nerves, look gracious instead of abusive to any antitrust authorities, while not committing to anything.

                It'll take a few years but CoD will be an Xbox/PC exclusive.

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                  January 21, 2022 4:21 AM

                  Yup. Existing agreements too. That means, what, next coupla years max? At a minimum they'll make the whole thing included with GamePass and charge 70 bucks for each new CoD on PS5, all but the most hardcore fans will just move across steadily anyway if they do that.

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            January 21, 2022 6:35 AM

            400 million?? Playing what? Mobile games?

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        January 20, 2022 12:59 PM

        I'm curious to see what they do with CoD in terms of Game Pass -- will they include it? Will they include both single and multi-player? They just spent a lot of money for Activision ... what are they making annually in Game Pass subs?

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          January 21, 2022 4:16 AM

          Well the skin factory and battlepass are still a monetary vehicle

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        January 20, 2022 3:52 PM

        They'd be losing out on way too much money I'd think - this buyout wasn't exactly cheap either, they have quit a deficit to make up so shunning Sony consoles seems like a bad idea (to me at least!).

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        January 21, 2022 5:26 AM

        They'd be losing a ton of money but they would also be selling a shit ton of consoles.. If they have enough to sell.

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      January 20, 2022 12:59 PM

      Sure it will. Microsoft just wants you to buy their products, they don't really care much where you use them.

      If someone's willing to spend $60-90 on a copy of CoD for PlayStation, they'll definitely be willing to sell it.

      Sony's going to be competing with the fact that someone can pay $15/mo and play CoD as well as hundreds of OTHER games on Xbox, though.

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        January 20, 2022 2:27 PM

        They will make a calculation of what is more profitable in the long run and go with it. Last time around they came to conclusion that all new Bethesda games must be exclusives, it will be no different this time I'm sure.

        I remember the same arguments here and the same PR from Spencer after Bethesda deal and in the end MS goes all in on exclusives, as they intended from the beginning. I don't see Diablo 4 or COD coming to Playstation in 2024, just as there will be no Doom or Elder Scrolls on PS.

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        January 20, 2022 7:37 PM

        I mean, it depends. Minecraft stays everywhere while future Bethesda RPGs are looking to be Xbox/PC only. Microsoft has to determine if its worth losing all of those retail sales on PS5 or not. Given that it is the most popular game on Playstation I won't be surprised if it stays while Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6 are used to sell Xboxes and GP subs

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          January 20, 2022 7:44 PM

          Seems like Single Player games being Xbox exclusive while games that benefit from a wider audience might be multi platform?

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            January 21, 2022 12:25 AM

            that would make sense. id be very surprised if ow2 is not on playstation, we need players this game is dying

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            January 21, 2022 5:04 AM

            That makes loads of sense

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        January 20, 2022 7:42 PM

        where my elder scrolls then

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      January 20, 2022 1:44 PM

      Maybe Sony will offer a smaller cut to keep it.

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      January 20, 2022 3:56 PM

      ". I confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard"

      and when those agreements run out......

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      January 20, 2022 4:10 PM

      Is it as big as Minecraft, or is it more like a Bethesda property?

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      January 21, 2022 12:22 AM

      Yeah, I doubt they’d want to eat that loss! Multiplatform is a key part of these big MP games.

      I can imagine them doing interesting stuff like CoD coming to Game Pass mid cycle / the SP on game pass day 1 to push the sub. Game Pass is the future of games for MS.

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