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Will Call of Duty continue on PlayStation? Xbox’s Phil Spencer tells it straight

With the Activision Blizzard acquisition stumbling on Xbox CEO Phil Spencer is adamant that fans can still expect to see Call of Duty on PlayStation

Xbox CEO Phil Spencer has spoken out on the continued debate regarding the acquisition of Activision Blizzard and the effect that will have on the availability of its games cross platform.

At the beginning of this year, Microsoft announced it had intentions to acquire Activision Blizzard for a massive sum of $68.7 billion. However, the acquisition is yet to be completed as multiple antitrust regulators have launched an investigation regarding the acquisition. Meanwhile PlayStation gamers await the outcome with interest with Call of Duty fans wondering if their favourite game will become an Xbox exclusive.

The argument goes that if Microsoft was allowed to go ahead with the acquisition it could it could create a significant impact on industry competition.

While Activision Blizzard is responsible for many popular titles such as Overwatch and Diablo, it’s perhaps Call of Duty that’s causing the most worry. If the acquisition is to go ahead, Microsoft will own the Call of Duty franchise — arguably the most popular and biggest first-person shooter game on the market and the latest release, Call of Duty Modern Warfare II, managed to cross $1 billion worldwide sales across just its first ten days of release.

Just ‘business’? Or an unfair advantage?

Despite Spencer stating in the past that Call of Duty would remain on PlayStation for “several more years”, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan has found this loose proposal to be “inadequate on many levels” and feels that Microsoft having control of titles such as Call of Duty would have negative implications for gamers and the industry as a whole.

Fast forward to today and the acquisition has still not been finalised as antitrust regulators continue to explore the implications of the deal. Xbox has argued that in terms of industry standing, Xbox is far behind that of PC and PlayStation gaming, they have also noted that the big-name game Call of Duty will remain a non-exclusive title for some time, they have also drawn attention to their lack of dominance in the mobile world and that the Activision deal is simply a way for them to grow and be a competitive contender.

In a recent discussion with The Verge, Spencer spoke on the acquisition and also highlighted the mobile gaming space saying “In terms of the Activision opportunity — I keep saying this over and over, and it is true — it definitely starts with a view that people want to play games on every device that they have. In a funny way, the smallest screen that we play on is actually the biggest screen when you think about the install base in a phone.”

Spencer goes on to draw a focus on the importance of the mobile games industry and how finding a solid base within that area is important for the business overall, he says “all of the growth in gaming has actually come on mobile phones. As a percent of the overall gaming business, console business is shrinking, because the overall business is growing while console stays relatively flat, as does PC.” Spencer mentions the power of Tencent, one of the biggest gaming companies in the world that acquires most of its revenue via mobile gaming.

Spencer does make a keen point in the sense that much of the conversation regarding the acquisition is solely based on the back of concerns regarding Call of Duty, however, the mobile game Candy Crush – which would also fall under Microsoft control – is one of the biggest games ever made. During the interview, this fact is mentioned with Spencer stating that “The idea that Activision is all about Call of Duty on console is a construct that might get created by our console competitor and maybe some players out there.”

He is of course talking about PlayStation, noting that “I haven’t heard Nintendo sending in any complaints about the deal,” Jim Ryan has drawn much focus on the Call of Duty franchise, and rumours of possible regulations regarding it have been floating around however Spencer states that “I have not sat down with a regulator where they have proposed any regulations”. 

Customer focus 

Spencer continues by saying the acquisition regulators should really be focused on the customer rather than competition, “When I think about where we are in Activision/Blizzard/King and the regulatory work, I think we should be analysing whether we are going to harm players. Is there a world where players have less choice in the market, or is there some kind of blocking that we do? We are committed to continuing to ship Call of Duty on PlayStation. People are worried about that. We are committed to putting these games in Game Pass, which gives people more options in how they want to go play these games. Nobody has presented to me a case that shows how Game Pass is bad for customers.”

All in all, Spencer seems keen to bring the focus back on to the player and is stating that if players want Call of Duty on PlayStation, then it’ll continue to come to that platform. He also expresses that “I welcome the conversations that any of the regulators are having with other gaming companies. I think it’s a valuable process.” And a process it truly is, despite the acquisition originally being put forward at the start of the year, The European Commission still has until March 2023 to make a final decision. 

It would seem that, for now, Microsoft is no closer to finding out if this deal will be finalised or not but they have on multiple occasions attempted to reassure gamers that they intend to keep the Call of Duty franchise coming to PlayStation. The debate that surrounds this acquisition is sure to continue into the new year, but if it does go ahead it’ll stand as the biggest acquisition that the gaming industry has ever seen. 

For now, at least, PlayStation gamers have the Xbox bosses’ pledge that common sense will prevail.

Written By

Paige Cook is a writer with a multi-media background. She has experience covering video games and technology and also has freelance experience in video editing, graphic design, and photography. Paige is a massive fan of the movie industry and loves a good TV show, if she is not watching something interesting then she's probably playing video games or buried in a good book. Her latest addiction is virtual photography and currently spends far too much time taking pretty pictures in games rather than actually finishing them.

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