For months now, Microsoft has sworn it doesn’t want to take the Call of Duty franchise away from PlayStation if and when it finalizes its proposed acquisition of Activision. But Sony cites the history of Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda Softworks parent company ZeniMax as a major reason why it doesn’t exactly trust Microsoft on this matter.
in Filing with the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published last week, Sony pointed out The decision of the European Commission to allow Microsoft to buy ZeniMax in 2021. In that decision, the European Commission cited Microsoft’s planned business strategy in concluding that “the combined entity He will not be motivated To book competitor video game console distributors by engaging in full or partial foreclosure strategy [emphasis added]. ”
In other words, the European Commission said it felt Microsoft would have no reason to block future Bethesda games from competing platforms like PlayStation. Soon after agreeing to the deal, Microsoft seems to have found this “motivation” quite easily.
In June of 2021, Microsoft announced that the upcoming release starfield It will not be available on PlayStation consoles (a move that prompted the CEO of Bethesda to publicly apologize to PlayStation fans). Next Manuscripts of the Sixth Elder It was also confirmed as an Xbox/PC exclusive in November, just over a year after director Todd Howard said such an exclusive was “hard to imagine.”
The FTC also noted this part of the European Commission’s report, saying that Microsoft reneged on its “assurances” to the European Commission. Technically, though, this part of the report was an understatement Prepare by Microsoft and more assumption by the European Commission based on its reading of Microsoft’s own plans. The European Commission wrote that this hint wasn’t key to EU approval of the deal, however — the exclusivity to Bethesda’s games “would not have a material impact on the competition.”
However, the entire Bethesda saga has Sony worried that any current promises on long-term cross-platform plans for the Call of Duty series could be similarly tenuous. “[Sony] The company wrote to the CMA very skeptical that an agreement with Microsoft could be reached, let alone effectively monitored and enforced. “There is no realistic prospect of reaching such an agreement that would maintain effective competition.”
lack of confidence
Sony wrote that Microsoft’s offer of a binding 10-year contract to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation isn’t enough to allay those concerns, as the arrangement “says nothing” about the long-term competition concerns identified by the CMA’s interim results. As Sony notes, these interim results already indicate that “the combined entity’s post-deal incentives will be very different from Activision’s current incentives.”
Sony wrote that even if the CMA tried to impose a so-called “behavioral remedy” to keep Call of Duty cross-platform, the move would not “address the many ways Microsoft can circumvent its obligations.” Sony also said that Microsoft had a “history of non-compliance with behavioral obligations,” pointing to Bethesda in addition to previous commitments made with respect to Windows and Internet Explorer.
Whatever Microsoft promises now, owning Call of Duty and Activision’s other franchises would give Microsoft “a competitive leverage… over the fate of the PlayStation (for example, by controlling Call of Duty’s pricing and quality).”
in Its deposit with the Capital Markets AuthorityMicrosoft again noted that it “does not intend…to make Call of Duty exclusive to the Xbox platform” and that its proposed agreements with Sony would mean that the PlayStation versions will match those on Xbox “in release date, content, features, upgrades, quality, and playability.” Microsoft proposed appointing a trustee. To monitor, an objective third party assessor, and a rapid dispute resolution mechanism to help deliver on those promises.
For Sony, there appears to be no executive order or set of magic words that will get the company to trust and accept Microsoft’s ownership of Activision and Call of Duty. The only solution that Sony would accept is the one proposed by the CMA itself: Microsoft divested Activision or Call of Duty entirely after the acquisition. The Capital Markets Authority is scheduled to take its final decision on this matter by April 26.
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