In making its case for its Activision Blizzard acquisition to be approved, Microsoft has repeatedly said it will continue releasing Call of Duty on PlayStation. But what would actually stop the company from doing otherwise, given that Sony has reportedly refused to accept a contract guaranteeing future releases? According to Phil Spencer, there is serious damage to Xbox’s brand that it would not intentionally invite.
As part of the ongoing hearings, in which the FTC is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the acquisition from going through without further review, Spencer was asked if he would expect any kind of reaction from PlayStation CoD fans if the series were pulled from Sony’s systems.
“Absolutely. I think as we’ve seen, even in preparation for this, that gamers are an active and vocal group,” Spencer said. “Us pulling Call of Duty from PlayStation, in my view, would create irreparable harm to the Xbox brand after me in so many public places–including here–talking about and committing to us not playing Call of Duty from PlayStation.”
Asked to again reiterate Xbox’s commitment to releasing CoD on PlayStation, Spencer said, “I would raise my hand, I will do whatever it takes–we have no plan to pull Call of Duty. … I’m making a commitment, standing here, that we will not pull Call of Duty–it is my testimony–from PlayStation. And as you said, Sony obviously has to allow us to ship the game on their platform, but absent any of that, my commitment and testimony is we will continue to ship future versions of Call of Duty on Sony’s PlayStation 5.”
During a closed-doors portion of the hearing, financial figures were disclosed that Xbox hoped would show why, due in part to the larger install base of PlayStation, it would not make sense to withhold CoD. Unfortunately, those specifics were not shared publicly, though Thursday’s session included the accidental reveal of Xbox apparently agreeing to an 80/20 revenue split (rather than the typical 70/30) to ensure at least one high-profile game would come to Xbox, with indications suggesting that involved CoD.
Elsewhere during today’s hearing, Spencer also affirmed that Xbox would not opt to deliberately release worse versions of its games on other platforms, again due to the damage it would do to Xbox’s brand.
The subject of exclusivity, and the manner in which Xbox has chosen to handle its games–particularly those published by ZeniMax and Bethesda–has been a common topic in the questions that Spencer and other Xbox executives have faced thus far. The FTC has attempted to paint a picture showing that Xbox has a vested interest in making Activision Blizzard games into Xbox console exclusives if the acquisition goes through, with games like Starfield being cited as examples. (Elder Scrolls VI also came up, though Spencer wouldn’t affirm it will be an Xbox console exclusive, or that it will even release on Xbox Series X|S.) Xbox has countered by pointing to games like Minecraft, Ghostwire Tokyo, and Deathloop that all released on PlayStation, although the latter two, as the FTC points out, involved specific contractual obligations made before the Microsoft acquisition of ZeniMax.
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