Japanese multinational video game company Sony Interactive Entertainment is concerned about Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, fearing the tech giant will try to sabotage the PlayStation versions of Call of Duty games.
In its most recent observation letter to the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Sony implies that Microsoft might accidentally or intentionally hinder the performance and quality of PlayStation’s CoD titles, leading to a migration of fans to Xbox consoles.
“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,” the letter reads.
It argues that even if “such degradations” could be identified quickly, any solution would be too late, leading “the gaming community” to lose faith in PlayStation as a reliable platform for playing CoD.
It explains that a CoD copy is typically purchased within the first few weeks after its release. Suppose the players discovered that the game’s performance on PlayStation was inferior to that on Xbox. In that case, they could transfer to Xbox out of fear of playing their favorite game in a second-rate or less competitive environment.
Sony insists that there is no realistic mechanism for it or the CMA to evaluate how Microsoft allocates its resources to ensure that Sony consoles would be “treated fairly and equally.”
Details on the concerns
According to Sony’s letter to the CMA, Microsoft has demonstrated no genuine willingness to negotiate a settlement.
The video game company claims that Microsoft has been uncooperative, intervened only when the regulatory outlook appeared bleak and preferred media negotiations over engagement with Sony.
In its letter, Sony also expresses its continued concern that Microsoft will pull CoD from PlayStation and make it a Game Pass exclusive — something Microsoft has repeatedly denied.
Rima Alaily, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Competition Law Group, said that taking CoD away from PlayStation makes “zero business sense.”
If Sony agrees to the 10-year deal proposed by Microsoft, CoD will be able to continue to be played on PlayStation consoles. Microsoft is also open to the idea of a third-party assessing platform compatibility.
Despite Sony’s vocal opposition to the acquisition, the other Japanese company, Nintendo, secured an arrangement with Microsoft.
Regarding delivering CoD on Nintendo devices, Microsoft suggests that Activision will have to give up some things by “optimizing the display resolution, in-game texture resolution, reducing the rendering speed (i.e., frames per second) and simplifying advanced rendering techniques (like raytracing, shadow, lighting, and antialiasing techniques).”
Final decision on the acquisition
A final decision on whether or not Microsoft can purchase Activision has yet to be made. The CMA is expected to decide on the transaction by April 26.
According to Sony’s remedies notice, the CMA is reviewing over 2,100 emails from the general public in addition to 3 million documents from Microsoft and Activision.
In February, the CMA expressed concern that the merger could “harm U.K. gamers” and lead to a “substantial lessening of competition in gaming consoles.”
The importance of CoD as a blockbuster franchise has been a big part of the U.K. regulator’s arguments. The regulator has even suggested that CoD be taken out of Activision’s lineup as a condition of the buyout.
The Federal Trade Commission in the United States has tried to stop the takeover, and other significant regulators have not yet given their approval.
However, observers speculate that the European Union will soon approve the merger after the news that Microsoft will bring CoD and other games to Nintendo and GeForce Now platforms.
Microsoft’s surprise purchase of Activision is one of the biggest gaming stories of the decade. This move will bring not only CoD but also other big-name games like Crash Bandicoot and World of Warcraft under the ever-growing Xbox umbrella.