It’s been a messy old week for Sony and Microsoft. After the UK Government published Xbox and PlayStation’s full arguments over the Activision Blizzard acquisition case to a public domain, media types and players alike have been trawling the pages, sniffing out bytes of snark issued by both companies in an effort to make themselves look smaller than they actually are.
The end game, of course, is for Sony to kick up enough sand that the regulators won’t let Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition deal go through. Microsoft, on the other hand, wants to make it look like it needs the massive publisher under its belt in order to survive against Sony and Nintendo. The result? Everyone looks a bit dumb, and the back and forth is bringing a lot other companies into the mix, too.
Earlier this week, we saw Microsoft assert that Call of Duty players are neither unique nor special – my favourite line in all this, so far. We also saw that Microsoft was willing to throw its own exclusives under the bus in order to look hard-done-by, on top of calling The Elder Scrolls 6 a ‘mid-size’ game.
PlayStation are also playing the game; Sony notes that Xbox Game Pass is ‘significantly ahead’ of PS Plus in terms of active subscribers (despite the Sony service having 47+ million users, versus Xbox Game Pass’ 29 million).
And we’re not done yet. In comments discoverd in Sony’s 22-page refute to the CMA enquiry, the platform holder throws some shade at Battlefield, care of EA. In the document, Sony argues that Call of Duty is a uniquely important franchise for PlayStation, and cannot easily be repalced by anything else. Like, say, Battlefield.
“Call of Duty is not replicable,” says Sony in the document. “Call of Duty is too entrenched for any rival, no matter how well equipped, to catch up. It has been the top-selling game for almost every year in the last decade and, in the first-person shooter (‘FPS’) genre, it is overwhelmingly the top-selling game.
“Other publishers do not have the resources or expertise to match its success. To give a concrete example, Electronic Arts — one of the largest third-party developers after Activision — has tried for many years to produce a rival to Call of Duty with its Battlefield series. Despite the similarities between Call of Duty and Battlefield — and despite EA’s track record in developing other successful triple-A franchises (such as FIFA, Mass Effect, Need for Speed, and Star Wars: Battlefront) — the Battlefield franchise cannot keep up.”
The document goes on to note that, as of August 2021, more than 400 million Call of Duty games had been sold, whilst Battlefield has only managed to shift 88.7 million. That’s a gap of over 300 million – so Sony has a point. Especially when you consider last year’s Battlefield 2042 was something of a flop (and was already haemorraging players by February 2022).
This back and forth between Sony and Microsoft is going to get even uglier as time goes on, and a lot more attention is going to be put on Call of Duty as both companies do what they can to convince regulators that they are in the right.
It’s going to be an interesting few years in gaming.