According to Microsoft, Sony has always been hostile toward its big competitor and has been working behind the scenes to sabotage the Xbox for years. Recently, Microsoft has pointed an accusatory finger at Sony for a number of reasons. In an interview with Second Request, Spencer claimed Sony is the only major party against the Activision Blizzard deal because Sony is “trying to protect its dominance on the console.” As he put it, Sony makes the PlayStation grow “by making Xbox smaller.” During an annual shareholders meeting, Microsoft president Brad Smith echoed Spencer’s sentiment and claimed the Activision Blizzard acquisition was more than fair because Sony sports far more exclusive titles — 286 to Microsoft’s 59 by Smith’s estimates.
In hefty responses filed by Microsoft and Sony to an inquiry by the UK government’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), each company presented its case for why Activision Blizzard would or wouldn’t hurt competition in the market. Microsoft claimed Sony was a much bigger player in the industry, and so the Acti-Blizz deal would only serve to help it catch up to Sony, making it a more level playing field for all. Sony argued the acquisition would actively cripple its console business and force consumers to buy an Xbox.
Some accusations levied by both companies are far more inflammatory than others. For instance, in a filing with Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), Microsoft claimed that Sony was intentionally trying to hamstring Xbox’s growth by paying for “blocking rights.” What does this mean? According to Microsoft, Sony has allegedly been bribing developers and publishers to keep their titles off Xbox Game Pass and other competing subscription services. Meanwhile, a document published by Sony (via Nintendo Life) examined a statement made by Microsoft that Nintendo doesn’t need Call of Duty to be successful and claimed it meant something more sinister. According to Sony’s interpretation, Microsoft wants “PlayStation to become like Nintendo” and become less of a direct competitor, using the Activision Blizzard merger to accomplish that goal. Yes, that’s quite the accusation.
During an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, analyst Piers Harding-Rolls claimed if Microsoft were to add Call of Duty to Xbox Game Pass, the game would significantly drive people the service. In its CMA filing, Sony claimed that its PlayStation Plus is already lagging behind Game Pass in terms of subscribers. Assuming Harding-Rolls is correct and Microsoft were to purchase Activision, it’s possible PS Plus wouldn’t stand much of a chance against Xbox Game Pass once Call of Duty were folded into the latter service.
But throughout all this, Spencer has stated time and again that he is willing to play ball with Sony and continue to publish Call of Duty on PlayStation platforms for the foreseeable future — and has even agreed to port the shooter to Nintendo consoles for the next 10 years. Spencer has a track record of working well with rival companies. Remember Minecraft? In 2014, Microsoft purchased its developer, Mojang, but the game didn’t turn into an Xbox exclusive. Minecraft is still available on multiple platforms, including PlayStation and players can team up with friends regardless of what console they’re playing on. Several years after the acquisition, Microsoft released Minecraft Dungeons on Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch, and the next Mojang title, Minecraft Legends, will also launch on all platform.
More recently, Microsoft honored the timed console exclusivity deals Sony and ZeniMax inked for Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo prior to the Bethesda acquisition. Granted, PlayStation owners still won’t get to play Xbox first-party exclusives like The Outer Worlds 2 and Starfield, but Xbox fans don’t get to play PlayStation-only hits like God of War or The Last of Us either. None of these are exactly anywhere near as big as Call of Duty or Minecraft, though.