from the bad appearance department
The saga of Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard continues. The two biggest remaining hurdles Microsoft has to overcome to close the deal at this point are in the UK with the CMA and in the US with the FTC. While Microsoft is appealing the CMA’s refusal to allow the settlement to go forward, the FTC’s lawsuit is just getting started. We’re only just beginning to see the substance of the depositions and hearings at this point and two pretty significant developments have emerged, neither of which are particularly good for Sony.
First up for this post is Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan suggesting in a statement that if the Activision buyout is allowed, Sony will no longer be able to share information about future consoles with the developer due to concerns that Microsoft knows the secrets of PlayStation.
If Activision Blizzard’s sale to Microsoft for $69 billion goes through, it could have big consequences for the future of Call of Duty on PlayStation. At least that’s what Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan keeps saying. In a new filing for the current Federal Trade Commission lawsuit, the PlayStation executive said the company will not share PlayStation 6 information with Activision if it ultimately becomes part of Xbox.
“We just couldn’t take the risk that a company that was owned by a direct competitor would have access to that information,” Ryan told regulators, as reported by Stephen Totilo in Axios. The CEO also argued that in addition to Sony not being able to share “console features in development” with Activision, the Call of Duty publisher would have less incentive to develop console-specific features for the PS5 and future devices like the PS6. .
At first glance, it makes some sense. If Microsoft owns Activision Blizzard, then sharing any future-gen console information with the developer essentially means giving a competitor, Microsoft, information about Sony secrets. Except there are a couple of things to note about this.
First, a big part of Sony’s complaints about the purchase is that Microsoft could make major game franchises exclusive to Microsoft. And this complaint is well founded, as we just talked about the company doing exactly that with various Zenimax franchises. But… if the fear is that Microsoft will make Microsoft-exclusive games, then the developers of those games won’t. need or you want information about the upcoming PS6, because the games would not appear on that platform. Ryan suggests that Microsoft could release a version of Cod that’s below par on PlayStation due to not having access to upcoming features, suggesting that Sony thinks Microsoft will still release those games on PlayStations, completely negating their reason for opposing the deal, and it’s a problem created by Sony. It all sounds like something anti-competitive, precisely what Sony accuses Microsoft of.
And how come this doesn’t seem like much of a challenge when the roles are reversed or other consoles are brought into the equation? Nintendo signed an agreement to put Cod on their consoles and this concern never came up. I don’t know if Nintendo gives someone features for future consoles, but for some reason there was no problem for them. And Sony has its own titles appearing on Microsoft platforms, so why isn’t it a problem the other way around?
Sony-owned games like Destiny 2 and MLB The Show are currently distributed on Xbox, and it’s unclear if Microsoft has or will face similar concerns sharing similar information with Bungie and Sony San Diego Studio when new Xbox hardware is developed.
There doesn’t seem to be any major issues in those cases, so why is it such a big deal when Microsoft is releasing first-party titles on Sony’s hardware?
At the end of the day, this wasn’t a particularly good look for Sony. Anticompetitive threats issued in the very case where the main concern is anticompetitive behavior is certainly a kind of strategy.
Filed Under: antitrust, call of duty, competition, jim ryan, merger, playstation, video games, xbox
Companies: Activision Blizzard, Microsoft, Sony