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The fight for the Activision merger deal continues. Most of the latest developments in the merger focus on Sony’s new concerns and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, which remains to echo these issues.
Sony’s new allegations
Despite repeated assurances, concessions, and proposed written agreements, Sony has accused Microsoft of possibly committing anti-competitive actions when the deal goes through. According to the recently published documents by CMA, Sony claims that there is a possibility that Microsoft would inject bugs into Call of Duty.
“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,” Sony told CMA in its statement. “Even if such degradations could be swiftly detected, any remedy would likely come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as a go-to venue to play Call of Duty.”
Interestingly, Sony also claimed that the rival has not reached out to offer solutions regarding the concerns related to the deal.
“In the intervening period, Microsoft has not shown any real commitment to reaching a negotiated outcome,” the document reads. “They have dragged their feet, engaged only when they sensed the regulatory outlook darkening, and favored negotiating with the media over engaging SIE (Sony).”
Sony’s claims directly oppose the actual moves Microsoft and Activision have taken and continue to make to clear concerns. For instance, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said that the company made calls to Sony, but Sony didn’t return any of them. Also, the public has always been aware of Microsoft’s repeated efforts to offer Sony a 10-year agreement involving COD. Lulu Cheng Meservey, EVP at Activision Blizzard, recently brought it up in a tweet, saying Sony “refused” to accept the offers.
“Microsoft offered Sony (the dominant console leader for well over a decade, with 80% market share) a 10 year agreement on far better terms than Sony would ever get from us,” Meservey shared. “We’ve also offered Sony guaranteed long-term access to Call of Duty. But they keep refusing. Why? The CEO of SIE answered that question in Brussels. In his words: ‘I don’t want a new Call of Duty deal. I just want to block your merger.'”
Microsoft’s continuous efforts
After CMA’s concerns regarding the quality of COD in Nintendo Switch surfaced, it is now revealed that Microsoft explained the situation to the British regulator. In the document, the software company mentioned an optimization solution to bring COD to Switch. Here are the two relevant points regarding the matter highlighted by Microsoft in the document.
- CoD includes both the free-to-play title Warzone and buy-to-play releases. The game engine that powers Warzone is mature and has been optimized to run on a wide range of hardware devices (ranging from the Xbox One console released in 2015 up to the Xbox Series X). Warzone supports PC hardware with GPU cards that were released as far back as 2015 (i.e., prior to the release of Nintendo Switch in 2017).
- The Activision development team have a long history of optimizing game performance for available hardware capabilities. The Parties are confident that in addition to Warzone, CoD buy-to-play titles (e.g., CoD: Modern Warfare 2) can be optimised to run on the Nintendo Switch in a timely manner using standard techniques which have been used to bring games such as Apex Legends, DOOM Eternal, Fortnite and Crysis 3 to the Switch. Activision estimates that this could be done with a period of around (redacted) months.
As usual, the licensing agreement Microsoft is offering to Sony was mentioned alongside the right to offer COD on PlayStation Plus.
Microsoft walking extra miles
Aside from continuously convincing different regulators, Microsoft also wants to educate the public about the benefits of the merger to the gaming industry and consumers in Britain. With this, besides having a dedicated page detailing the deal, Microsoft has now put the merger benefit details in ads through Financial Times and the Daily Mail. Despite this, it is important to note that CMA already shared that 75% of the British public approves Microsoft’s proposed $69B Activision merger.
“Of the 2,100 emails that we reviewed, around three quarters were broadly in favour of the Merger and around a quarter were broadly against the Merger,” the CMA said last year.